Whining is Not a Strategy!

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In our strategic leadership workshops, we often hear from people some version of “But so and so won’t let me …” or “I’ve complained many times about our company’s … ” or “Our organization is so messed up that …” to which we sometimes say (kindly of course  Whining is Not a Strategy! strategy 2 leadership emotional intelligence decision making communication appreciative inquiry  that “Whining is not a strategy.” If you are whining or looking at what is wrong, you cannot see opportunities and will not develop your skills. If, for example, you don’t think you are being provided with enough clarity about your job, instead of continuing to complain about or ask, over and over again, for clarity, ask yourself what you could learn about dealing with ambiguity. That will definitely lead to your next opportunity to learn and grow which is indeed a better strategy than whining!

Waiting for I’m Sorry

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In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) work environment, the potential for pain can be high despite the best intentions of good leaders and the actions of misguided or unprepared leaders. Stuff happens, it’s not addressed and people start to carry around a heavy load of pain and frustration.

For me the way through that is an inner journey of forgiveness which sets us free and is completely in our control. Forgiveness is a choice to recognize that those who have hurt us are human, they make mistakes, and that hanging onto our anger and sense of “what’s fair” just keeps us stuck. 

Reconciliation, while powerful, is a nice to have but because it involves communication between people is messy and complicated. Often it’s simply not possible because one party isn’t willing to do so. And if you reconcile without forgiveness you live in anticipation of the next “hurt”, an uneasy and fragile space to occupy.

Waiting for an I’m sorry or for someone to hold the offender accountable, or to reconcile with someone who’s not willing or able sucks the life out of us. Forgiveness, while indeed challenging, breathes life into us. 

And it is a choice we can make at any time.

Go First

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When it comes to building or rebuilding trust, there comes a point when someone needs to have the courage to go first, let down their guard and defense mechanisms and be vulnerable. Revealing what is REALLY happening for us creates the opening for trust to be built.

We often get asked “why should I go first?” Because if you don’t, your world becomes smaller and smaller and the one who suffers is you.

Silence Is Not A Problem To Solve

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Learning to manage anxiety in the presence of silence is another insight from the work of Weisbord and Janoff. As they suggest, “We are mindful that each time we break the silence, we deprive someone of a chance to make a valuable observation.” Waiting even 10 seconds will seem like an eternity, but it allows people to experience whatever is happening and come up with insights about what’s next.

State The Obvious

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I am a big fan of Weisbord and Janoff, creators of Future Search, and learned much about facilitation when I took their training. Their new book Lead More, Control Less applies their years of experience to leadership, and offers great insights.

One of their concepts is how to handle one’s anxiety when leading meetings. Often we try to rush to solution or tell people what to think. Stating the obvious signals you’ve heard people and actually eases your own anxiety. It also eases anxiety for others. State the obvious and pause. In my experience someone will come up with the next step for the meeting.

Letting Go Of The Right Way

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I have had the honour of working with many talented leaders who are so people oriented that they drive themselves crazy trying to ensure people are happy. These leaders often have to make tough decisions, though, and it’s not possible for everyone to be happy all the time.

Even though intellectually I think most of these leaders know this, they still keep thinking that if they had done something different, people would be happy.

They won’t be – there is no one right way. That’s the reality of work and life – there is pain at times. Helping everyone accept this might just start to ease people’s suffering.

Tell a different story

The way we talk about our situations really does contribute to the outcome. What are your “favorite” stories and how do they help or hinder you?

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Change your shoes

We can become entrenched in our attitudes and beliefs. Change viewpoints … assume you are one of your team members and watch your energy shift. If you are having difficulty with this one, find a pair of shoes that are quite different and walk around in them for a while. Symbolically this might help you shift your perspective and energy and communicate differently with your team members.

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Today’s blog is based on the 4 of diamonds, a communications teamwork tip from our Teamwork Explorer.

Go on a story walk

I was inspired to read about Hubspot’s CEO, Brian Halligan, who takes employees on off site “story walks” to build trust and organizational culture.

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Gnarly roots

While out walking on the beach a month ago, I ran across this fallen tree with the most amazing gnarly roots. It reminded me of the complexity of interpersonal communications on some teams. We sometimes need a lot of patience to unravel issues and get back on the same page.

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