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Does Your Conversation Bring Barriers Up or Down?

Avoidance. That is the biggest word we hear from leaders when they talk about having to deal with conflict.


Repetitive. That is the second word we hear from leaders as they tell us they are tired of having the same discussion over and over again without getting results.

So what can you do to change that? Is there a way to converse with someone that gets lasting results?

In IMP's Conflict Harmonizer™ that is exactly what we show you how to do. In order to speak differently though you need to learn why your brain listens, responds, and reacts to what it hears. I won't go in depth on that here but I will give you an example so you can see it in action and reflect on your conversations in order to make changes.

Let’s look at an example: You are stressed out with a lot on your plate. You have 10 people on your direct team. Most work independently and just keep you in the loop on what they are working on. For the most part your team are doers that get things done. Mary, one of your team members, comes to you and says, "I feel like you don't give enough direction. This causes me to waste time on projects because I am not sure which part I should work on first. I feel like if you gave more guidance I could be more effective but when I ask you for it you treat me like I can't do my job. I want to talk to you about this."

Now for just a moment check your immediate response. Did you immediately start thinking about what was on your plate that was making it hard to give more direction? Did your brain go to justifying that everyone else on the team is doing well without heavy guidance so it must be a problem with Mary? Did you start to wonder if Mary could do her job? In other words did you feel that Mary judged you in what she said in any way?

When we feel judged we automatically move to defensive thinking. All of the above statements are examples of defensive thinking. They are where our brain goes in order to protect ourselves when we feel someone is attacking us or what we are doing. None of them are conducive to a talk that will get to the core issues and beliefs that need to change in order for you to get the results you need.

The conversation Mary was having with you is one that is traditionally taught to us. With conflict we are taught to focus on how we feel and why we feel that way. This doesn't help you as it leads your brain to reach in and find ways to protect your position rather than remove the barriers so you can have a healthy discussion. So with traditional communication the dialogue ends up having you slip in comments that can make the other person feel attacked, blamed, or judged. When any of those happen the other person stops listening and just moves to protecting themselves. In other words, a conversation will happen but no lasting change will take place because each person has their brain energy invested in holding on to their own position.

This is why a majority of leaders we work with have repeat conversations with employees about their performance. What you say each time never sinks in long-term but instead falls in to the "protection void" and the person keeps repeating that same behavior until you either let it slide or your fire them. IMP's Conflict Harmonizer Experience™ is all about how to have those gutsy talks so they take root rather than flight!

So let's take the same conversation and apply the Outcome Thinking® Method to see how you can think and speak in a way that removes the automatic barriers in order to get to core beliefs and lasting changes without judgment. Imagine your reaction if Mary had instead come in and said, "One of the challenges I have given myself is to be more effective with what I do and how I do it. One of the things you are great at with your team is giving us autonomy to do things independently. One of the things I have noticed about me is that I produce more when I have some more guidance so I stay focused right away. What I would like to brainstorm with you are ways I can get that guidance while still fitting in to the autonomy you like us to all have. I know you have a lot on your plate and I would like to be more useful in getting things done for you."

Notice in this conversation Mary never blames you, makes you feel attacked or undermines your authority. Instead she is realistic about herself, you and the role she can play. She put things in terms of benefits for you and team more than she did about herself. She also stated that she wants to figure out how to get that guidance without disrupting your natural leadership style. This shows you respect for you while still staying focused on the outcome desired- to produce better work faster.

Outcome Thinking is a skill that allows you to get rid of judgmental statements that become the clogs in our communication. It eradicates the anger and frustration that can shut a team down, cause silos in your company, and cause leaders to not come to conclusive decisions.

TAKE ACTION: Practice with your next conversation to make sure that you are focusing it proactively for the other person. Start with the point of agreement, move to the desired change, and then the roadmap of how to get there. You will find you can have more robust discussions without tears, anger or frustration!


As the leading Outcome Strategist, Anne Warfield shows people how to say the right thing at the right time every time.  The revolutionary Outcome Focus® Approach shows how to build a candid corporate culture of communication that allows you to lead, present and negotiate transformationally rather than transactionally. When applying Outcome Thinking® our client’s results include sales cycles reducing by 75%, turnover reducing by 30%, silos evaporating, and a 25% savings of time by executives.  Find out how you can maximize your corporate culture for greater productivity and results!  Contact us at 888-imp-9421, visit  www.impressionmanagement.com,  or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .