In our last post, we looked at damage it can cause to working relationships when managers or co-workers are prescriptive. That is to say, when someone shares their opinion on “the way” to do a given task or to produce a desired outcome. Here are some ideas of how to shift directly into enrollment instead of falling back into the behavior of training or telling someone how to address their issue, and what to do, even when you stumble.
As Chalmers Brothers says, today’s work environment increasingly requires managers and owners to move from “command and control” and toward “enlist and enroll.”
Your New, 1 minute Warm up
Before you head into a meeting or a conversation with a co-worker or team where you may be concerned about “taking over,” try a one minute warm up.
Reimagine the person you want to be perceived as – (1) the lecturing parent with the pointy finger, or (2) the most amazing colleague, boss, teacher you personally have ever had the privilege of working with or the person you want to emulate. Hold these two contrasting images in your head and decide before the meeting who you’re going to let “win” in the meeting. The way you usually show up, or who you want to be.
Maya Angelou said: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
2. Next, ask yourself, what feeling do you want to invoke in your co-worker as a result of your conversation? How are you going to give your co-worker energy instead of having them leave feeling like their energy resources were depleted?
If your co-worker had an exit interview from your conversation, will they report they felt energized by it? What needs to happen in the meeting to make *that* outcome happen?
In the meeting – how to avoid helping and what to do instead
What to do instead of voicing your thoughts. During the meeting, when you really want to share your directive, insight or your concern, instead of voicing it, jot it down on paper instead.
What’s the point of that? It’s simple. It’s to get your point out of your head. What you had in your mind is now “said” on paper – it doesn’t need to be spoken. Sometimes, getting it out of your head is what makes it so you won’t verbalize it. Surprisingly, jotting it down can be all you need to do. (I’ve used this strategy, and it works great). By the end of the meeting, someone else may have brought up the same question, and that’s a win. If they don’t, and your thought is highly relevant *and* urgent, then go to the next step.
How to ask – if you absolutely must. If the issue at hand cannot wait, commit to not vocalizing your point *until* you can phrase it into a wondering (not a loaded), question.
As in, I noticed X. I wonder, what do you think about ….?
Once you ask a question, silently count to 8 seconds. Counting helps fill the uncomfortable silence in your head instead of you offering an idea to “jump start” the discussion. Within 8 seconds, someone will respond and get the brainstorming underway.
Remember, you are playing a new game. Your goal here is to see if you can spark a hand off. By asking a wondering question, see if you can get someone else to hit the ball to the rest of the team. Instead of kicking off the brainstorming by answering with your idea, see if by counting silently someone else starts to run with it. Your big win is that you do not call the play, and you do not make the catch. Your entire goal is to make space for someone else to call the play and for someone else to score the points and for someone else to show their brilliance. How’s that for a game changer?
And, boy if you’re a go-to person, that’s going to feel different, uncomfortable, like you’re suddenly no longer as relevant. It’s like the kid who’s raising their hand with the answer who the teacher isn’t calling on. It doesn’t feel great at first to not participate if you enjoy providing answers to challenging questions.
So, to be successful at this, you have to shift to playing a new game and score it differently than all the other players. The new game is to not partake in the actual game or to be a player. Instead, the game is to be the coach who observes, and who does not need to call the play because the team knows how to call their own shots. You might even score yourself after each meeting. How did you do with your new game? Were you able to not ask that question you wrote down? Rate yourself at the end of each meeting – how are you doing?
Ask for a reset. Another suggestion is to “out yourself” in conversations. If you see a colleague start shutting down during a conversation with you that turned into an advice-giving session, ask for a reset. “You know, here I am telling you how to do your work. Let me be quiet for a moment, I’d like to hear more about what you think, and by the way, thanks for being patient with me. I’ll get this.”
The new game - Invoke amazing instead of create it
If you are an entrepreneur or a manager, it’s time to apply your creativity to this new game. Your new game is to multiply your creativity. If you remain prescriptive, you’ll never have the freedom you seek from being a business owner, because everyone will look to you to stay in it to call the shots.
If you are a manager and you remain prescriptive, you’ll become a lynchpin where nothing gets done without going through you. It will be hard to recruit people to work on your initiatives. You’ll stagnate in your position, when your team could be moving the business forward.
The exciting thing, is you get to decide. Once you choose the path of enrolling instead of directing your co-workers, you get to go back to “the beginner’s mind” and learn a whole new way of being. And, that’s the fun part. Because it’s challenging. It’s hard. It stretches your mind because you no longer provide the answer. You invoke answer*s* from others. And even better, it’s the most rewarding work you’ll ever do in your career and your life.