The Most Difficult Confrontation
Posted on December 27th, 2013 | Categories: Authentic Leadership , Uncategorized
Authentic leaders navigating 2014 and the post-downturn world know that, first and foremost, it is relationships that define success. Relationships do not happen without conversations. And so authentic leaders in our New Age must be masterful at conducting and participating in conversations of coherence .
My client , a seasoned advanced technology CEO, was clearly frustrated. We were about halfway through our weekly session late last summer when he went off on a tirade about one of his divisional vice presidents. Now, we’d talked about this particular VP before. In fact, we’d had similar discussions about most of the 10 key leaders on my client’s executive team. The story, when things turned dark, was almost always the same: why won’t they ___ (fill in the blanks; the desired action varies from incident to incident, and from player to player)? Knowing the executive team well from coaching interaction with them for nearly a year, my assessment of them was highly favorable. They couldn’t possibly be the errant school children the CEO so often described. It was obvious a critical piece of the puzzle was missing. That part was the CEO’s awareness of negative roles he was playing regularly in conversations with these (and probably other) organizational stakeholders.
“I’m curious, Bill,” I said after listening to his story. “You have very good people. You talk with them often. What do you think is missing?”
You could have heard crickets.
Most senior executives are skilled in conveying facts, figures, concepts, plans and initiatives. They can really dish it out. In the parlance of Judith Glaser in her recent book, Conversational Intelligence, pretty much standard conversational methodology in the workplace is “tell and yell.” It doesn’t work. Especially now.
In the instance of my client, as is so often the case, the missing piece of the puzzle was not about functional skills his top executives were lacking. It was about dysfunctional conversations he was having with them, on a consistent basis. He was almost totally unaware of how poorly he was coming across. And it was costing him and the company. The most difficult confrontation my client was facing was not one with his top lieutenants. It was with himself.
Recognizing he had important work to do, we focused on strategies for changing the way my client was coming across in formal and informal conversations in our work together for the next several months. And, in end-of-year progress reviews with the CEO and his leadership team, feedback was overwhelmingly positive: subtle differences the CEO was introducing into his conversations—verbally and non-verbally—were paying off. Productivity was clearly on the rise. Morale was significantly enhanced. Much more of a team vision for success replaced the perception of the “my-way-or-the-highway” scenario that was killing team coherence. Together, they closed a huge new account.
As you approach 2014, take careful inventory. As a leader, do you have the courage to confront yourself? Are you an initiator of, and participant in, consistent, coherent conversations? Or are you (let’s be honest here) essentially “telling and yelling?”
Authentic leadership demands relationships. And relationships cannot exist without “conversational intelligence.” The choice is yours.
John P. Schreitmueller , PCC, ECP-BC, is CEO of Atlanta-based Resolute Consulting Group LLC, a specialty practice for executive, leadership and developmental coaching, counseling and consulting.
Examples noted in the article above are anecdotal. Names, organizations, industries, situations and other criteria are strictly edited for confidentiality. Any resemblance to an actual person, persons or organization is purely coincidental.
Reference utilized: Conversational Intelligence, by Judith E. Glaser (Brookline, MA, Bibliomotion, Inc., 2013)
Copyright 2013 by Resolute Consulting Group LLC