Sometimes, our minds linger on events we can’t make sense of.
Maybe a colleague’s behavior was surprising. Perhaps your leader made a decision that didn’t seem right. Or maybe you received feedback you couldn’t relate to, and it felt more like an attack on your person.
How do you not get stuck when you have a bad taste in your mouth? How do you push forward and pursue the best result for everyone despite what happened?
My client, a global executive now six months into his role, consulted me on a strange shift in his relationship with his boss. She, the boss, seemed to suddenly behave differently towards him, which started a spiral of doubt regarding their relationship and her authenticity as a leader.
My conversation with my client went something like this:
Me: What did the change in your boss’s behavior look like? What did you witness?
My client: I finally met her in person after a month-long, national lockdown, and she acted very strangely. She wouldn’t maintain eye contact, and our conversation wasn’t flowing at all. She responded briefly to my questions, and seemed to be looking for an opportunity to leave. I felt as if I’d done something wrong, something that jeopardized our good relationship. But I’m not aware of anything that could have caused her to behave that way.
Me: Have you noticed similar behavior before?
My client: No, during our phone calls, she seemed confident and straightforward; our conversations were not only constructive and efficient, but they also felt personal. I thought we had rapport.
Me: Was there anything different about the environment when you met your manager this time?
My client: It was in person for the first time and not a phone call, and there were many other people there. We were in a social setting and didn’t have a business topic to discuss. My peers were there, and there was music…
Me: What type of person is your leader? Remember how we spoke about how different people have different preferences?
My client: Yes; she’s an introverted, thinking type.
Me: What do you think could have been going on for her in this different setting?
Right about then, I noticed the hint of a smile slowly forming on my client’s face as he started to see a new perspective.
He realized that it may have been the environment and not him causing his boss to act differently. Due to our previous work on Insights Discovery, where we looked at basic personality profiles, he was aware of the preferences of different people.
My client’s boss seemed to be a thoughtful leader who knew how and when to push herself out of her comfort zone. Even though her personal preference was for virtual meetings, she knew it was right to meet her team in person and create bonds on a more personal level, especially after a long period of virtual work.
She was doing the right thing, but it wasn’t natural for her. Her body language and tone gave away the fact that she was out of her element, leading to a somewhat confusing impression.
As my client and I explored the potential interpretation of events, he also saw his feelings about his boss change. Instead of worrying and challenging the authenticity of his leader and her behavior, he came to respect her even more. He also committed to offering subtle social help if ever needed.
Ambiguity is a constant. Going beyond the obvious and being able to quickly shift perspectives on people, situations, solutions is a skill we all need.
As a leader and as a human being, to be professionally successful and also long-term happy and fulfilled, we need to develop the ability to adapt effortlessly. Agility is top-of-mind in business today. But there needs to be more than listening and responding.
As I was searching for a more fitting expression, I came across the term “frictionless mind.” Here’s a great description of it:
Having a frictionless mind doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have opinions, even strong ones that you believe are built on a solid foundation of fact and well-reasoned ideas. […] it means you have a willingness to quickly and easily let go of your beliefs, adopt other perspectives, and question the validity of your underlying thinking. It also provides a useful self-awareness check to confront your own biases and blind spots.
How willing and quickly are you able to shift to another point of view? You may return to your original thinking, newly convinced of its validity, but you’ve at least given other approaches a test-drive.
As we re-emerge from our home offices, let’s nurture a frictionless mind. Asking yourself the following questions will help you do so:
– What alternative interpretation is available?
– What other meaning could this have?
– If that was true, what could be the underlying reason?
– What thinking or beliefs will lead me towards the best possible result for all involved?
– What words or actions will bring about the best possible results in a larger context?
The next time you feel like something isn’t right, shift perspectives. It can be difficult at first. And it’s sometimes hard to do alone. If you’d like a partner and guide, drop me a note.
I’d love to speak.