What were you thinking?! Setting the stage for a better conversation

Many people are passionate about what they do. We care deeply about our projects, our clients and our own success. This can cause us to feel a high level of frustration when things go wrong. We feel let down when budgets are marginal, shortchanged when the schedule is cut, stressed to maintain a quota we did not set, and angry when mistakes are made. When we get frustrated, the tendency can be to launch into our indignation head on. This is always at the expense of our relationships. Finding the right time and place to have high stress conversations matters. We also need to set the right context at the start of our conversations when we are frustrated or angry.

The purpose of setting the context is to make sure the other person knows what matters to you. Explaining your underlying interests goes a long way toward shared understanding. You can work together to build shared commitment up front by setting the context. Generally, people on the same team want the same things.

Here is an outline for setting the context for stressful conversations:

1) Set the context
a. Choose the right time and place
b. Say, “What’s important to me is….” or “What I want to happen is….”

2) Get buy-in
a. Is it ok to talk about this?
b. Is this a good time to talk about this?

Sometimes I have to force myself to take a breath and set the context of my concern before blurting out that concern. Instead of saying, “Why is our budget so low, we have barely started the project? What were you thinking! We can’t make any money.” Try, “What’s important to me is that we work together to hold our margins. We don’t have much to work with. Can we get together on this?”

Effective leaders are willing to be open and transparent with their interests, positions, and feelings. Instead of throwing stones, they take responsibility. They inspire others to do the same.

This is one of the many topics I will cover in my Supervisor Series starting next month at the Larimer Country Workforce Center. Join us! http://larimerworkforce.org/workshops/business-workshops-and-roundtables/



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