Tag Archives: emotion

The Big Derailer

“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.”

What Would Happen?

“But, Sue, Tony and Ricardo were just bystanders in the exchange between Fred and Jim,” Ron was puzzled. “Shouldn’t I keep them as bystanders and just deal with the two primary actors?”

“Sue, Tony and Ricardo are as involved in the fracas as Fred and Jim. They may not have actively participated on the front end of the exchange, but they were certainly impacted on the back end. Fred and Jim need to hear about that. So, yes, everyone gets a turn in the discussion, but, only speaking for themselves. And you, you are not exempt, just because you are the leader. How did you feel when the back and forth between Fred and Jim got heated?”

“I felt threatened, my stomach got a little knot in it,” Ron replied. “I wanted it to be over, I wanted it to stop.”

“And, what else?” I asked.

“I felt like the team was going to explode, or fall apart.”

“And, what else?”

“I felt if Fred and Jim continued their animosity, it might turn violent and they would never be able to work together again.”

“Good,” I said. “I assume you will hear similar things as you go around the table.”

“And, that’s it?” Ron stopped.

“No, now it is time to get curious. What was it that contributed to the heat? Now is the time for questions.”