The hard part of leading, the part so many business people avoid whenever possible, is dealing with employee emotions and, in particular, conflict. Unfortunately, it is hard to lead well when you ignore something that has such a huge affect on how people act. To get better at leading, Leadership Effectiveness Training suggests four steps:
Listen actively. Really listen to what someone says and doesn’t say. Don’t propose solutions or assume you know what is going on. Say “Help me understand this” to get more information. When you do this, people feel heard and you gain enough information to get to the root of the question.
Fight fair. Instead of accusing someone, use I statements: when you do X, it affects me Y and I feel Z. “When you don’t finish the work on time, it gives me too little time to do my share and I get yelled at by the boss. This makes me feel frustrated and angry.” This precludes assumptions about why they did what they did and opens the door to hearing their explanation (back to that active listening thing).
Praise with I statements, too. When you do X, it affects me Y and I feel Z. “When you get your work done early, it gives me extra time to do a really good job on my share and we all look good. It makes me feel proud of our work.” Be specific and prompt. Generic or late praise isn’t nearly as effective.
Lead by getting everyone involved with solving the problem. Get a commitment for active participation from each person, define the needs (not solutions), generate and evaluate solutions, implement them, and follow up to make sure it went well or if changes are needed. Repeat as needed. (This is similar to Lean Manufacturing’s PDCA cycle – Plan, Do, Check (evaluate), Act (adjust and try again).) Use lots of active listening and I statements in the process.
What all these steps have in common, besides the active listening, is that they focus on finding solutions that everyone can accept, rather than assigning blame for a problem. Not surprisingly, this makes it easier to generate good solutions.
Thanks to Andy Janning for a great webinar on Leader Effectiveness Training.