Leadership CPR for Relationships and Meetings

"Why don't you two speak to each other about this? When you're ready to rejoin the group, let me know." Oh, how naive I was. That was my response to two warring team members. I lacked the skills and strategies to deal with inappropriate remarks during meetings, but aside from calling upon professionals to toe the imaginary line of "professionalism," I wasn't sure what to do. Later, i attempted to apply Susan Scott's Fierce Conversations, quoted below, unsuccessfully.
Each of us must discard the notion that we respond differently depending on whom we're with and that our work and home conversations are really quite different. Source: Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations
Wow, that's pretty insightful. It's a valuable lesson that frees you. Are you consistent in different situations? If so, you experience peace because you're not managing multiple personas...not unlike saying, "This is how I am on Facebook and Pinterest vs. Twitter and Edmodo." Inconsistent roles are difficult to maintain across the spectrum of interactions we have each day, but especially so when dealing with conflict.

How we deal with conflict defines us. Some times, we avoid it. Other times, we seek to resolve it in ways that bury it. Few times do we embrace conflict in a way that benefits the participants and the team as a whole. If you have any desire to "CPR" relationships and meetings, then you need to keep reading.

If you visit Around the Corner,  you know my penchant for the Crucial Conversations/Confrontations books from the VitalSmarts folks. One of the challenges any leader faces--whether they are the person with institutional authority or not--is how to deal with rude interactions in meetings.

"So-n-so is a complete jerk," gossiped one team member. "Did you hear what she's doing?" Work for any period of time anywhere, and you'll quickly identify the values of the successful, the hateful and the soon to be unemployed.

Like you, I have had to deal with these in previous positions of leadership, and I admit that I usually failed to handle them well. As a professional in education, there were some essential expectations I worked from:

  1. Professionals on my team were there because they were committed to doing a good job and worked towards that end in a courteous manner.
  2. Professionals know how to interact with others and resolve issues without having to involve the main group in it.
  3. While some might lose their cool temporarily, they would step forward and apologize when they realized they had done someone (or the group) wrong. This could be a public apology.
I'm not sure how I developed these expectations over the years, but when I walked into my coordinator and director leadership positions, these were "rules" I expected others to follow. Of course, I didn't realize that these were my own construct, adopted, stolen, or made up...and therefore, not binding for others.

That's the value of Crucial Cs and how they clarify these points. They do this in this blog entry:
This is why we teach people to clarify the conversation they really need to have. We define three types of conversations—Content, Pattern, or Relationship. When the comment is a one-time comment, the conversation needs to focus on content. 
The statement I mentioned above is a content statement. You mentioned in your question that you’ve talked privately to individuals about this. When they make rude or cutting comments again, you have a pattern. 
When you talk to the person, privately, you need to talk about the pattern and the negative consequences of this pattern. And you need to get a commitment that they won’t do it again. If the person continues to be rude, it is not only affecting the team, it is affecting your working relationship. 
If the person is rude again, you need to talk about the relationship and how their continued bad behavior is affecting the way you can work together. You need to be clear about the actions you will take if they continue to make these comments. If you are a supervisor, that can mean progressive discipline. If you are a peer, it might mean that you will stop the progress of the meeting and ask that the team figure out how to fix this issue.
How are you handling rude individuals in your meetings?

Check out Miguel's Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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