Ever been in a situation where your emotions took over and you blurted out something you later regretted? Or found yourself, withdrawing inside yourself, only later to think of several things you could have/should have said to stop a situation from getting a whole bunch worse? In fact it would be a miracle if you've got this far in your life and haven't had a few cringe worthy moments.
Let's take a look at a tool I call the "Moment of Choice", which if you get good at using, will make your life a whole bunch easier! And, will certainly make those cringe moments fewer and further apart.
Imagine this scenario
You are a leader who is working with a project team, with a major product release, that is due for launch in three month's time. Currently it looks like the project may run over by about 3 weeks.
You have asked your team to put in some long hours, over the past several weeks, in order to bring the project back on schedule. You are in a meeting, and you've just asked your team for input as to what might hold them back from bringing the project back on time.
There are a few moments of silence, with no-one looking you in the eye.
Eventually, one of your team members clears his throat and says, "This is hard for me to say, but, to be fair, I think it needs to be said. Over this past week or so, a number of us have seen you leaving the office a few times during the day. The rumor is that, because you are wearing more corporate style clothes, you are going for job interviews, because you see this project failing and want to get out before that happens. Some of us are wondering if this is true and whether you are committed, or whether we should all be out looking for new jobs.."
In that moment you turn bright red, you look surprised and your mind begins to spin.
You immediately feel disappointed that your team doesn't trust you, or your intentions, and you feel like they are attacking your integrity. For them to question your ethics and your actions, like this, causes you to start to feel hurt and frustrated. You had hoped, that you had built a strong foundation of trust with them, and for wild rumors like this to surface scuttles you, because they couldn't be further from the truth.
How would you respond, when you unfairly think people have judged you and your character? Would you get defensive?
Most people do. What they don't realize, is that, they have just met the Moment of Choice. In that moment, you have three choices available to you. You have the choice to
- Flee or
- Align With Your True Potential
The Three Key Questions
To stop yourself from the knee-jerk response of fighting or fleeing (and generally ending up by behaving in ways that doesn't support you or others), in that moment of choice you can empower yourself and others, by training yourself to ask these three key questions:
- What do I want for the task at hand?
- What do I want for the relationship?
- How do I want to personally grow in this situation?
These three questions take you to a higher place, and enable you to hook into what you really want. Knowing what you do want, will help you control your knee-jerk reaction, which is possibly to shut this person down in some way.
Getting to grips with what you do want enables you to step into your power and align with who you really are, and respond rather than knee-jerk react.
When you find yourself in a place where your ethics/integrity/character are being questioned, when you find yourself asked, like the leader in the above scenario, "Are you committed?" and your emotions take over...
you might attack by saying something like:
In a heartbeat you have shut the conversation down.
It is doubtful that in the future anyone would dare to raise a controversial subject with you again, and certainly the question about your commitment or integrity hasn't been answered.
You certainly cannot control your knee-jerk response.
But its the moment after that grab at the gut... it's the next moment ... where your power lays.
It's that moment, after the first hit of adrenaline, when you make a conscious choice about what is going to come out of your mouth next.
Let's imagine, as the Project Leader, you apply the skills you've learnt. You take a deep breath, in that Moment of Choice, and ask yourself, "What is it, That I Really Want?"
So, your knee-jerk response might have been - and it is important you understand, that this isn't a processed, articulated thought, it is a reaction in the gut, that goes along the lines of... -
"I am going to put this bloke in place - how dare he attack my commitment to this team and my integrity!"
But, now, instead, because you know about the Moment of Choice...
You take a breath and think:
Hold the train one moment ... I am feeling defensive and annoyed - do I really want to let these emotions get in the way and shut this person down, and maybe even the entire team?
What do I really want?
I want this team to stay committed to bringing this project in on time, and they believe that I am a fully committed member of this team (TASK)
I want to be a leader who inspires people to be their best, and whom feel comfortable to raise any issue with me, no matter how difficult it may be. I want to continue to build an environment in which openness is valued. (RELATIONSHIP)
I've made the commitment that I won't give in to my temper and fears, so I'd rather stay rational right now and work through what might be going on here, that I'm not getting. At the moment the perception of the team is that I am a hypocrite, who is giving up on them. I wonder what I'm doing that could cause them to think that way? (PERSONAL GROWTH)
Now with a few moments of rapid thinking, rather than giving in to and being a slave to an emotional response, you can appreciate you now have awareness that there is a problem, you can appreciate this guy's courage to raise this mis-perception and clear it up.
So you might say something like:
"Wow, I didn't know that was your perception. I'm glad you raised it. Let's clear it up. For the past two weeks I've been meeting with a potential new client, who may want us to do a project similar to this one, once we've finished it.
I hadn't shared it with you up until now, as the client wanted it to be held in strictest of confidence. I'll be able to give you more information next week, but at the moment, I'm pleased to say, that it's looking like once this project is successfully finished, we will all have another great project to look forward to.
And here is the vital next question ... the question that takes it from solving a one off problem, to being a leader who is focused on building a strong high performance team.
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