Have you ever been enthusiastic about rolling out a new program to your team only to be met with full resistance? What if you knew this program was going to solve the problems that they had been complaining about? Did you wonder what was wrong with them while asking yourself “why don’t they get it”?
This is exactly what happened to a mid-level inside sales manager after implementing an accountability partner program for his team. After navigating through his frustration, he paused and asked himself the 3 key questions that every leader should be asking before speaking to their team (keep reading, the three key questions are listed below). After answering these questions for himself, he discovered that the root of the problem didn’t lie in the program nor did it lie within the reaction from the team. The problem was in how he delivered the message of the new program.
The biggest mistake leaders make when speaking is not being in the same conversation as those they are leading.
Said a different way: are you trying to sell your team on Christmas when they’re still celebrating Halloween? If you are, take a step back. Enter the Halloween conversation, complete that conversation and then guide them into a discussion about Christmas.
Back to the manager: after further reflection, he realized that before jumping into the “here is the solution to all of our problems” conversation, he could have started the conversation with a discussion about the challenges the team was facing, the impact of those challenges on the team, then lead them into why he saw this new program as a solution.
So what are these three magical questions?
The three questions leaders should always be asking before speaking to their team:
- Where are they? (Point A)
- Where do I want them to be? (Point B)
- How can I connect the dots to lead them from point A to point B?
Leaders see this sometimes with new sales people. They are so excited about selling a customer that they jump to the closing conversation with a client before qualifying them. Veteran sales people understand how to meet the customer where they are and then hold their hand through the sales process while guiding them to the close. You cannot do that if you are two conversations ahead of them. As a conflict transformation leader, you must develop this same discipline.
Your conflict transformation challenge: Examine the discussions you are having that aren’t going well. Is it possible you are not meeting those you lead where they are?
A wise business coach once advised, “Be cognizant of the conversation that your customer is having. Be present to that conversation.” As a Conflict Transformer, we know that every person we interact with in our business life is a customer including our clients, our bosses, our boards of directors, our direct reports, our vendors, our colleagues, etc. We must be present to the conversation that others are having, enter that conversation and then guide them forward to the next conversation.