“Tell me what you accomplished so far with the pattern we talked about?” I asked.
“We met, everybody, same room. I acknowledged the heated exchange between Fred and Jim from the week before, that there was an issue of underperformance on a project. I asked everyone to write down how they felt during the exchange, then once around the table, everyone speaking only for themselves. No one was allowed to say -we all felt this, or most of us felt that, everyone can only speak for themselves,” Ron started.
“Okay,” I nodded. “We know what the issue is, that we are attempting to resolve underperformance on the project. We were clear to acknowledge the emotional load that went with it. Fred and Jim are now aware of the impact of their heat on the team. Now we get curious.”
Ron furrowed his brow. “What do you mean get curious?”
“I mean, questions and only questions,” I said.
“Who is asking the questions and who is responding?” Ron wanted to know.
“Everyone on the team is asking the questions. Fred and Jim get to respond. Here is a quick list –
- Working on the project, what did you observe? What did you see, what did you hear?
- What was the impact on the project? What were other impacts on the project? How did that make you feel?”
“Whoa, whoa,” Ron stopped me. “We keep talking about feelings. What do feelings have to do with this?”
“That’s easy. First, it is out in the open that there was underperformance on the project, which is what we are trying to fix. Fixing the problem got derailed by the emotions in the exchange. We can avoid those emotions, we can stuff them down, we can ignore them, but they will come back, they always come back. Let’s get the emotions out on the table now, so we can acknowledge them, check them with reality, so we can get on with fixing the problem.”
Like the line you’re following. Some times I am impressed by how people can bypass emotion as a factor in business direction. Your characterization of them as arising, caused by circumstance, to derail the logical pursuit of resolution of issues is accurate. And the idea that many would rather drink poison than open them up is also right on.