Have you ever been “worked up” about an issue? You hear about it, think about it, and then get upset about it? Do you ever think about how your reaction is received by others? You should.
On this particular day, I had gotten up early and made a big effort to get in touch with a colleague to make sure that he was supported and that we were aligned about an agenda that was being developed for use the next day with our executive team. We both had a lot at stake as did some other colleagues. We had a great conversation, agreed a way forward, and agreed roles and responsibilities for all parties that were going to present on the day. I felt great about it and told him so and told him that I would be “out-of-pocket” until that evening on other work commitments. I let him know that I would get back to the office around 5:30 PM and would come to see him.
I then had a super day at the other commitment and drove 3 hours back to the office. I was feeling great! Normally, I would have gone home as it was after hours, but I had made a commitment to my colleague and I intended to keep it. I arrived back at the office and saw the work product that had been produced during the day. Guess what? It bore no resemblance to the things we had discussed that morning and furthermore, it was no longer positioned for success with the executive team. Now we were T-12 hours until the event and all the executives were lined up to attend.
Pressure? Concern? Annoyance? Yep! All of those and more. How on earth did it get so far away from where we needed to go? I was still committed to stay as late as we needed to stay to get it fixed.
So, I went to see my colleague. I opened with, “I have concerns about this agenda and I’m not sure how we got here.” I was also feeling a little “put out”. How do you think that went? He’d been working all day on the product. He had worked with other leaders to develop the new agenda and was under pressure. He also knew in his heart, that he had not hit the mark with the agenda and was feeling more than a little insecure about that.
So – you guessed it. It did not go very well. It’s not that my intent was wrong, but the delivery sure didn’t get the outcome I desired.
All I wanted to do was to fix the agenda and have a very successful day. My opening, did not at all achieve my desired outcome. I did not start with, “wow – looks like you’ve made a lot of progress today. I want you to know that I am committed to working with you as long as it takes to polish this agenda.” If I had done that, he wouldn’t have thought that I was going to dump a night of work on him to prepare for the next day. He wouldn’t have been uncertain about whether that work would hit the mark.
So, what did I do? I quickly realized that my intent was not apparent to him. I took a step back and said, “I will be here as long as it takes to get the agenda to a place we can all agree will position us for success tomorrow. Let’s regroup in 30 minutes and we can get the other leaders who are still in the building to help craft it.” That took the heat out of the conversation. It made him realize that I valued him and his work and that I was there to support. It allowed him to cool down and it allowed others to participate in the success.
A group of us worked on it until 8 PM and it was reshaped.
He came to me later and apologized for the way he reacted and noted that we both always have the same agenda – which is do the best we can! That won’t happen every time, but I realized, that in every interaction, if I can try to put myself in the other person’s shoes before I begin the conversation, then we can some to a better place without having angst in the middle.
The next day the kickoff was a huge success!! At the break I told him what a great job he was doing with the master of ceremonies role. We have a stronger relationship for the honest conversation.