Right now I am working with an organization that is in the throes of huge change with new senior leadership, new vision and a new culture. As coach to two of their senior executives, I know that I need to strike the right balance of pushing them out of their comfort zone and just being there for them to vent to and bounce ideas off, helping support them while they deconstruct problems to solve.
So when is it okay and appropriate to challenge someone’s thinking?
I’ve found that it is usually around their blind spots or what makes them most uncomfortable. For example, a client who was a conflict avoider had a strength in building rapport and harmonious working relationships. When she saw people who were direct and liked to debate, it disturbed her and activated a blind spot. The best way for us to illuminate that blind spot was to get her out of her comfort zone to be more edgy and direct herself.
If an employee went on and on about an issue, I challenged her to drive the conversation to a close, be direct, be okay if the person disagreed with her, and to be flat out contrarian at times. She had wanted a quick fix – to move those troublesome employees who challenged her out of the organization – and instead we talked about how she needed to change.
Another client had a strength of great planning skills. As we learned in his 360-degree assessment, the consequence of over-using this and over-controlling every detail was that his staff got annoyed, disengaged or even rebelled. I asked him, “What is the opposite of over-controlling?” “Spontaneity,” he replied. As you can probably guess, I challenged him to be more spontaneous at his next meeting.
He felt very uncomfortable winging it, and would have much preferred to experiment with spontaneity a little at a time. When I asked what was the hardest thing about being spontaneous, he said it was feeling out of control. While a huge challenge for him, he took it on.
The next time we talked, he reported that his team really enjoyed the lighter, fun side that came out when he was spontaneous, and the normally quiet team members participated more. He noted that the team came to some good outcomes and still got through the meeting on time.
It’s amazing: While it’s challenging to step into a trait that’s the opposite of a strength, doing this can help us discover our blind spots – what others see, but we cannot.
What trait makes you most uncomfortable when you see it in yourself or others? What might you gain from incorporating that into your interactions with your team? Please add your comment below, or share with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or email.
PHOTO © Andrew Breeden – Fotolia.com