January 18, 2011
- You deal with performance issues before they become personal.
- You are able to come up with the ‘right words’.
- You deal with challenging situations or people as they arise.
- You say the ‘hard things’ and still maintain good working relationships.
- avoid these performance conversations, or put them off until we just can’t put them off any more
- focus so heavily on making sure we get the ‘message’ across, that we get ‘hard’ or ‘matter of fact’ and forget about the relationship we have with the other
- overcompensate for the relationship and beat about the bush, couching the message in such fuzzy terms we fail to actually say what we meant to
Well, the truth is there is no step 1, step 2 fail-safe method to having these conversations; a relationship is a two–way thing and we can never reliably predict what another will say and do. However there are some things that are useful to know and some capabilities that we can develop that will grow our ability to better achieve the outcomes we are looking for from our conversations.
While it is certainly important to know some guidelines or tips for conducting a performance conversation, when the thing that inhibits us is ourselves and our emotional responses, what is needed is personal development. This will increase our self-awareness and develop our capabilities to manage emotional responses and learn new ways of thriving when we are called upon to do something that challenges us. Programmes such as the one my company offers, which create the opportunity for you to really learn about your inner workings and to get in control of your range of behavioural responses to challenging people and situations, are the ones more likely to create the changes you are looking for. While programmes such as these are not typical and will stretch you beyond your comfort zone, the benefits of committing yourself to this kind of learning will enhance your work and life immeasurably.
August 5, 2010
>A great educator, Caleb Gattegno, once said that the only thing anyone can ever teach is awareness. This is handy if you are in the business of developing leaders, as it seems to be the number one thing that is mentioned in discussions about growing leadership capabilities. In this very interesting post (http://blogs.hbr.org/video/2010/08/the-crucial-skill-for-tomorrow.html) from the Harvard Business Review, Professor Bill George suggests that leadership is more about self-knowledge than skills. He goes on to say that it comes from an exploration and understanding of one’s life story and asking oneself, “What is my purpose in leading?”
So if the prime target for leader development is self-awareness, how can this happen? Many of us in these educated times would say that we have good self-awareness. However, we can only know what we know. What about the stuff we don’t know about ourselves? ….and what about the stuff we don’t know that we don’t know? For some leaders, these ‘unknowns’ lead to a self-imposed career ceiling, although it is unconsciously self-imposed. To develop greater awareness, we need to have the courage to find the things that we DON’T know about ourselves. This can free us to change and grow, and thus open up further career opportunities.
For example, there will be the leader who struggles to delegate. An overly-controlling or micro-managing style will likely not open up opportunities at the top of the organisational ladder. We can think that this kind of leader needs to enhance their coaching and mentoring skills, and perhaps their communication skills. But as Bill George says, it’s not about developing skills. What about those folks who go on coaching courses or communication courses, but still can’t put the skills into action? It’s most likely that the remedy is not to add more skills, but to uncover more about the person. There could be something in their life history which has given rise to the need to be in control. Awareness development will drill down to the question which the person may never have considered. It could be something like, “What is your greatest fear about delegating to others?”
I am continually delighted when I’m working with people, and I ask a question about themselves which elicits an immediate “I don’t know”. I sometimes joke “I know you don’t know, that’s why I’m asking the question.” It can be useful to encourage ourselves, when we get to an “I don’t know” about ourselves to pause and really consider the answer. Having really gone inside and searched for the answer, if we still don’t know, then ask “Well, who WOULD know?” Feedback from others can be a essential part of this self-awareness journey. I like to think that growing self-awareness is best done with others. It’s a strange human paradox that we have to learn things on our own, but that we best learn when in the company of others.