The other day I was talking with a friend – to keep confidentiality I’ll call him Fred. It was one of those evenings. We grab a drink ready for a long overdue catch up, and he needs to let off steam…. After a day of meetings with colleagues it felt like groundhog day for him. He’s been trying to influence his colleagues for two years to change their approach to identifying and developing up and coming talent. In their meeting that day there was a realisation that the organisation was not at the level it wanted to be at nationally. Lack of funding, lack of coaches, lack of talent were all blamed at different stages of the meeting. “I’ve been telling them this for two years” he said…
I just can’t get out of my coaching mindset can I?! I wonder if he can hear himself? How often do people do things because we tell them to? I know my teenage daughter doesn’t do things I tell her to. But if I talk to her and help her see things differently – most (OK some) of the time she eventually comes round to trying it.
So I pick my words carefully, he’s an old friend and we go back far. “I wonder why they don’t hear you? My friend admits to being direct and forthwrite with his views, and feels others have dithered about making decisions for change.
The Harrison Strategic Paradox sprang to mind – that is how you strategically manage risk, and considers your preference for being “risking” alongside your preference for “analysing pitfalls”.
I score higher on taking risks than analysing pitfalls too, and guess my friend is the same. I ask him what could go wrong if they adopted his recommendation? This stops the conversation. He doesn’t know, but feels that the current approach isn’t developing the future talent needed.
That reminded me of the saying credited to Albert Einstein “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
That made us both laugh. Interestingly then my friend admitted that his colleague had raised some good points about what could go wrong with his suggestion. Silence on my part – inside I’m thinking “well done, you’re shifting your assumptions…”
I then asked again, why his colleagues couldn’t hear what he was suggesting. My friend admitted that he found the meetings quite frustrating as no one spoke up with their ideas and seemed to be happy repeating the same approach. Apart from him! He admitted to be very comfortable to say his piece and be “naughty”. I asked what he meant by being naughty. Saying it how it is, being clear and disruptive – his words again!
Then the Communication Paradox came to mind – that is how you manage directness and tactfulness when communicating with others. I’m guessing my friend is scores higher on Frankness than Diplomacy. The from the Opinions paradox (how you form and hold your opinions including how you deal with ambiguity) I’m guessing he scores higher on Certainty and lower on Open/Reflective – and probably prefers other people being frank with him too.
I don’t think his colleagues have a similar Communication paradox to him, they probably value empathy over frankness.
We then talked about the value of diversity of thought, and how tension and conflict can bring about innovative thinking. He loved this topic! Agreeing intently that was needed with this group. Different views and opinions, debate and contrast. Ideas to discuss and build on. I then asked him whether he’d heard of task and personal conflict? The former meaning conflict and diverse thinking about a topic. The latter being conflict (usually) between two or more people on a personal level. Our second silent moment. I could see his mind went straight there. “I’m making it personal”.
My take on this was that he may have said what everyone else in the room was thinking. Their talent development approach needed to change. But people were not “hearing” his ides. Instead they heard his frankness, strong opinions and risk taking instead and this scared them…..
Classic examples of why being strong in certain behaviours does not necessarily mean a strength. Unless you balance those dynamic traits with equally important supportive traits you’re going nowhere! At that point I felt it was my turn to buy the drinks and move off the topic!
I love using Harrison Assessments in my coaching practise – have a look at why I think this is such a good tool here…