Leaders Ask, “Is There a Middle Step?”

We all have situations where we feel stuck and think there’s no way forward.

Let me give you some examples:

  1. I need to address someone’s obnoxious behavior in meetings, but I don’t know how to bring it up.
  2. I’m bothered by a team member’s disengagement, but I’m having a hard time putting into words what I’m seeing.
  3. I need to back-pedal from a new policy because it’s now clear that it doesn’t work, but I’ve already inconvenienced the team and don’t want to pile more on them.

For these types of situations, consider my newest acronym: ITaMS.

ITaMS stands for a self-question—

Is There a Middle Step?

Anytime it’s hard to see how to get from point A to point B, ask yourself, “ITaMS?”

And oftentimes it’s exactly this: express your dilemma and impression out loud, and see what happens.

For example:

  1. Esteban, there’s been some meeting behavior that I want to bring up with you, but I’m not sure how. Do you know what I’m talking about?
  2. Gladys, I’m having a hard time figuring out what exactly is bothering me, but it feels like you’re less engaged now. Am I reading you wrong, or do you know what I’m seeing?
  3. Team, I’m embarrassed because it took three meetings over two weeks to implement the new TPS Report cover page, but I now realize that it was a bad idea, and I hate piling more on you by reversing the course. What’s the best way to pull back on this without overloading you?

Notice that a part of each expression ends with a question. This approach shows humility and curiosity, and will work best if you’re sincere and have a history of a great relationship. But even if that last piece isn’t there yet, give it a try—it might help build that relationship.

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