If there’s one skill that leaders must master and habitually improve, it’s communication.
I say “habitually improve”, because it’s impossible to communicate flawlessly ALL the time.
But – we can sure try!
Take a look at this story about a time when intent and impact did not match up:
Stanley, upset about recent changes, talked back to his boss in a team meeting.
“I’m not embracing this new protocol. It’s worked the old way for 17 years, and I’m not changing”, he said.
His manager, Alicia, replied — in front of all 6 team members — “I hear your concern, Stan. We’ll discuss this further at your one-on-one.”
Stanley could have left it there, but he was steamed. He interpreted her response as lip service, and a passive-aggressive message of “you will do this.”
Enraged by what he felt was a wimpy response to his concern, Stanley dropped his filter and said, “DID I STUTTER?”
Stunned by his angry reaction, Alicia continued on with the team meeting.
What consequences could this have on Stanley and Alicia’s working relationship?
Alicia disciplines Stanley, and he in turn becomes resentful. Alicia keeps a closer eye on Stanley and treats him like a child.
Alicia no longer gives Stanley important work, a raise or promotion, and so on. Respectively, Stanley comes in late, leaves early, and does just enough work to stay out of trouble.
Nothing good comes of that relationship again.
This resolution involves low productivity, and high stress.
Alicia realizes that while she intended to be supportive and help Stanley save face, she actually came across as sarcastic, so she apologizes for her clumsy delivery.
Stanley realizes that he judged Alicia based on her impact, rather than her intent, and apologizes for his heated remark.
They meet again after they’ve cooled down, and have a conversation about the changes required, the reasons why, and the acceptable path forward.
Maybe when Stanley leaves, Alicia writes him a great recommendation. Maybe Stanley decides to give the new way a shot. Maybe Alicia reconsiders the extent of the changes required.
Regardless, this resolution involves low stress, and better productivity.
A mantra that can work for all of us:
I will not let my worst experience with a person dictate my future relationship with that person.
Remember this mantra the next time a miscommunication happens.
What if we all used this mantra? How many relationships could we save?
How much more could we get done, with less stress and conflict?
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