Chances are that as it relates to the work we do, we have come face to face with a version of the bull in the china shop. We can’t help but to be aware of it … its’ presence … and its’ impact. And whether the impact created is the desirable and intended one is often questionable.
I recently began working with a client … I’ll call him Bill … who is fulfilling a much needed leadership position in a large organization. He has been there for a year and is considered to be doing an excellent job on the technical aspects of the position. In fact, he is being seriously thought of as worthy of promotion into the executive level of the company. Thought of … yes and here comes the ‘but’. He also represents an enormous bull who moves among others in ways that alienate co-workers, discourages interactions actually needed in the business and has created a large group who work to stay out of contact with him unless absolutely necessary. This group is comprised of co-workers, reports and bosses.
Maybe this works in some company cultures or at least, doesn’t stand out as much. In fact, Bill believes he has been very successful in previous companies operating in his usual, very direct and straightforward manner. However, for him, in this organization it has the impact of the noise that results from scratching ones’ nails down the chalkboard. He understands that his success in this job absolutely requires that he alter his method and style of communicating in ways that will build positive and necessary working relationships. As such he has entered into a coaching relationship to resolve this issue once and for all. Have you ever experienced a Bill?
Before Bill can be successful in making change he needs to understand and recognize what he is doing or not doing that is creating the negativity he is experiencing. Here are the most prevalent ones and what needs to change:
- Focusing on the individual rather than the issue at hand
You did this job like this and you’re wrong. As such you’ve created a lot of unnecessary work for …. I’m very unhappy with you!
When the job is done in this manner it creates complexities down the line that aren’t necessary. It will eliminate this problem if done like this …… What do you need from me to make this change?
- Picking the right time and place to address an issue involving another person
When Bill is in a management or team meeting and has a criticism to deliver to one other participant he thinks nothing of blurting out his displeasure and criticism in front of all others. This creates embarrassment on the part of the target person while others are somewhat appalled while they watch in silence.
For Bill to be effective and have his message heard, he needs to wait until he is able to speak privately to the other individual. He often has valid points however choosing how and where to deliver them is what has created the negativity of others towards him
- Being unable and unwilling to accept his own errors and the criticism of others
Although very able to point out shortcomings of other, when confronted with something that Bill has done incorrectly, he becomes very defensive and still manages to lash out at the person making the point and blaming them for not correcting the error.
As a company leader, one is watched by others to do their job in the ‘right’ way in conducting themselves in their roles. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate effective communication and leadership. The ability to graciously accept responsibility for his own work and make needed corrections going forward will result in enhanced respect from others.
- Public email communication that is only designed to communicate with one person
If Bill has a problem that involves just one other person the tendency is to deliver his message and related criticism via email that is copied to several others on the departmental or company team. This megaphone approach creates embarrassment and minimal acceptance from all recipients.
Emails should be sent to include only those to whom Bill needs to speak. Public lashing brings about an unintended reaction that has no positive aspects to it.
Just as having the technical skill to be successful in any particular job is key, so is the ability to meld into the organizational culture if one is to realize true success. Personal attacks that are delivered without sensitivity to how, when, where and in front of whom they are made only work well to bring about blame, contempt, defensiveness and complete closing down in terms of good communication. As this is the untended consequence of such an approach, there is a real and positive payoff to giving moments of consideration to the audience and how I can best deliver my message to have it received, accepted and appreciated. Bulls do well in the ring … red capes and all. They are definitely out of place in that china shop and go there with significant risk.