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7 Ways to Think About Trusting Others Instead of Controlling Them

leadership development Mar 08, 2016

In talking to clients, I know that many senior executives have control issues. They want to keep a certain span of control to ensure nothing gets out of hand. At its worst, executives even start to stop "their" people from talking to "their" colleagues direct - they must go through them and/or always be copied in on any and all communications that go outside their unit. Here's a few clues on how to think about things out differently.

1. Hierarchy gives way to Community

Instead of thinking about your organization as a hierarchy or a fiefdom where warrior cannot speak to chief, think about your organization as a community. This way silos gradually give way to effective collaboration.

The best way I've found to imagine a community is to think of it like an extendedfunctional family where everyone gets on and is polite to one another. You have a "parent", your boss; "siblings", your team members - fighting respectfully is not just allowed but essential to really talk; and lots of uncles, aunts and cousins spread far and wide.

Anyone can talk to anyone and in fact it's encouraged, especially across geographic regions, as anyone in your family can connect you to another family member, no matter how big it gets.

2. Talk About the How, not the What 

Most conversations at work focus on what's to be done, by when and by whom. It's largely task-focused. However when you're a member of a large community, you also have relationships with each other. Real ones, not just ones related to getting the work done.

Because you're a community, you also need to have conversations about how you relate to each other or how you might support, encourage, offend or disrespect each other! After all, you're part of a functional 'family' and people in functional families talk to each other about their feelings!

There are three key components of a Courageous Caring Conversation - probably the most popular tool amongst my toolkit of proven techniques to navigate the AVZ: the authentic vulnerable zone!

Speak the TRUTH - just say it as graciously, succinctly and honestly as possible!
Describe the IMPLICATIONS - on your work, your feelings, your relationships, your team dynamics, work outcomes - whatever is being affected.
Make your POINT - this is where many Courageous Caring Conversations fail - you must advocate or decide on a turning point  - something you or they agree to do differently from this point on.

3. Word gets round! Think first!

Now when functional families get together, they're encouraging rather than disparaging, inclusive rather than exclusive and use humour rather than humiliation to expose each other's idiosyncrasies. 

So when you're talking about each other, and we all do, it's our only way of learning to understand each other and realize how our different drivers, concerns, dreams and challenges make us do and say what we do and say - talk in an inquiring, respectful way. Ask better questions to get some good insights.

If we talk in an offensive, disrespectful way by putting people down, just know that word will get round. Better to try to understand someone than to nuke them - after all they're part of your 'family'.

4. Speak up - they're just your cousins!!!

While you need to think first before you disparage someone else, you need to speak up fast when you see it happening by and to others! Dysfunctional families are full of secrets and pacts, functional families hang out the washing!

So talk. If someone is bullying someone else, if someone is just being unkind to someone else, or if someone has not noticed the needs of another when they're in a position to help, speak up. That's what cousins do.

Just point out what they're not getting. It's not because they don't want to, it's just that they can't see beyond their own more limited frame of reference. So let them know what they can do differently. Feed forward.

5. Say something in the moment it's happening!

This is what being present means. We act, engage and respond in the moment as an event around us is taking place where we see or feel we can be of service. We just need to give voice or take action to reflect and articulate what is arising within us.

As we do this more frequently, we get better at it. The first time we might interject and say something obtuse like: "Hey, what's going on?" And this is great, it's a start, it starts a conversation!

Bringing the past into the present is much less effective. It allows time for guilt, shame, remorse and even humiliation to fester. Rather than exercising judgment post the event, exercise presence in the event bringing understanding into the situation. All this takes is an open heart, an open mind and speaking up.

6. See your emotional reactions as a signalling system

When you react to something someone else has said or not said, done or not done, turned you down when you asked for something or exposed you in front of others when you wanted to hide something, ask yourself, what can I learn from this?

Our emotional reactions are a signalling system. When we don't react emotionally to whatever is going on it means we're not triggered. It's water off a duck's back. But when we do react, become alarmed, nervous, anxious, fearful or feel threatened in any way, it means we're being triggered by a current event that is similar to a past event that hurt us. It's our emotional wound that causes us to react!

So when something like this happens to you, just ask yourself: "Is there something related to this event that I regret or resent from my past?" Realize that the event is a gift in terms of being an opportunity to heal a past emotional hurt that has turned into a wound and possibly a deep one. It's only triggered when you're ready to heal!

7. Science is one thing, intuition is another

Onto a different tack. We absolutely need evidence-based logical arguments to expose parochial decision-making and decisions that back so-called 'special' interests while injuring longer term outcomes for the broader community. Science is important.

However when we are facing a complex challenge or wicked problem, which by definition cannot be solved by rational, linear, scientific thinking, we need to engage our intuition to seek out interweaving patterns, interconnected dynamics and innovative solutions that embrace all stakeholders in our communities now and in the future. This is all about 'feeling' our way through the diversity and ambiguity.

Trusting others is also about trusting our intuition. By learning how to feel, understand, interpret and articulate our intuition, to give it the weight and authority it deserves over and above logic, we can trust ourselves to speak up, navigate relationships without needing to control them and foster a community spirit that ultimately uplifts everyone!


Antoinette Braks


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