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Don’t create a monster. Connect before you correct

What is your approach when you have an employee who is not performing? Or a member of another team who is not responding? Because it is Halloween the question becomes, how do you stop turning people into monsters, that just get in your way of achieving success?

A few years ago, I started working for a client. I asked them for their source of greatest conflict, that was harming their ability to get the results they needed. After a bit of thought, they said the Information Governance team. 

I asked, “What is wrong?” 

Client: “They will not do the work we need. They have had weeks.” 

Me: “What have you done?” 

Client: “We sent them an email.” 

Me: “What did you do when they didn’t respond?”

Client: “We sent them another email”

Me: “What did you do then?”

Client: “We send another email and escalated it by copying in their boss but they didn’t respond either!”

We are moving in such a fast-paced environment that our impulse is to do what is the easiest for us, rather than what might make the best outcome more likely. By giving people our focused attention to provide a space to think through what is needed, we are more likely to create the results we want. Email cannot do that.

I arranged a meeting with our contact and went and sat with him. I resolved to listen to what was going on for him. Rather than giving him a piece of my mind, for what he hadn’t done, I gave him a space in my mind, to work out what he could do. It turns out he had more work than he could perform. He didn’t understand our work so it went to the bottom of the pile. I went through what we needed. He happily agreed to deliver the work by the following Monday. He did.

There are a few lessons in this. Firstly, be curious! Find out what is driving people’s behaviour. What is going on for them that if you knew would completely change how you approached a situation? What are you missing? 

Being curious pre-supposes that you are able to question your own assumptions. Some people have a need to be right, I have retrained myself to have a need to be effective. I have a need to get rid of a false assumption as fast as I can.  If I have a faulty assumption that means I will make faulty decisions and so have faulty outcomes. Rather than being certain why someone is acting in a certain way be open to being wrong. It’s not as scary as you think!

But the biggest lesson is to connect with people. We create a space for the best ideas if we listen to them, find out what is going on for them and genuinely care about their problems. Better than that though, they feel supported and valued. They become healthier and happier humans. If we want to be reductive, this makes them more productive. Everyone wins! 

I didn’t have to beg or pressure my new Information governance friend to do the work. We just talked and together found the best route through. We now had a connection and he wanted to do the work. If we connect before we correct, the correction is often not needed. The monster we created, either in our head or due to them becoming defensive, all of a sudden goes away and is replaced by a friend. 

The bonus lesson is that email is not a useful tool to resolve conflict. It is easy to use, because it allows a fire and forget mentality, but it does more damage than good in a conflict. If there is any potential conflict, always try talk to them and really see things from their perspective. 

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