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Increase Your Team's IQ - Check It Out!

Got a Surprise Working With a Team

Awhile back we were working with a team of scientists for such an event. Below is an account of CrisMarie and I chatting at the end of Day One about one of the team members.

CrisMarie lamented, “Jerry didn’t say a thing all day, and I could tell he was bored and disappointed in the day’s events.”

“I agree he was pretty disengaged. I’m not sure what we should do differently,” I replied.

“Probably just let him be and carry on,” CrisMarie concluded.

We both were pretty sure Jerry was an unhappy camper. And because we surmised the same thing, I was sure we must both be 'right.'

We didn’t make any significant changes to the remainder of our session. As the offsite wrapped up, we asked for closing comments. We were both expecting Jerry to say something negative. To our surprise, here’s what he said:

“This was the best two days I’ve ever spent at a team off site in my career. We got more done than I ever expected, and I actually enjoyed myself.”

So much for being ‘right.’

I am sharing this because we believe it is quite common to create a story about someone or a situation with only limited information or confirmation. We then believe that story is the truth, just like CrisMarie and I did.

Fortunately, in this case – even with our version of the story, it didn’t change the outcome of the offsite. However, I have to admit, internally, I was more cautious and guarded with Jerry than I was with the rest of the team.

If nothing was said directly, it would be easy for me to start making Jerry ‘wrong,’ and possibly create even more distance with him.

How Gaps Between People Are Created

This often happen in business with teams. Here’s an example.

Mary the CFO interprets Sam, the VP of Marketing, as being aggressive in his behavior. She then makes up a story that he isn’t interested in anyone else’s opinion and just wants to do his own thing.

Mary doesn’t check anything out with Sam. Instead, Mary, with her story, continues to make Sam wrong in her mind. She starts pulling away and collecting data to support her perspective (story), eventually creating a gap that is very difficult to bridge. She may even start trying to convince others on the team of her story, causing a team gap.

A Flawed Solution

So, because people are uncomfortable with such a situation they decide to fix it. They think, “I just shouldn’t be so judgmental.” This fixes nothing and is actually impossible to accomplish.

The problem isn’t Mary (or any of us) being judgmental. In fact, you want smart, opinionated, judgmental people on your team. That’s why you hired them. That’s why they make the big bucks. One of our greatest gifts is our imagination and our ability to discern and judge. We can’t help but judge. It is how we make meaning of our world!

The problem is when Mary (or any of us) assume our story or judgment is right. We get fixed in our view of the world and then start to fight for it. That is where our gift becomes a liability, especially in interpersonal relationships, which by the way, is the core of business.

What To Do About It: Check It Out!

The work isn’t to shut down the story telling or judging. The work is to be willing to be curious and share your story and Check It Out! Find out if the story you have told yourself actually fits with others’ experience and be curious about the answer.

Mary could say, “Sam when you interrupt me or others in the meeting and repeat your own point of view, it seems as if you don’t really want our input and just want to do your own thing. Is that what is going on for you?”

When we share our own story, we are actually saying more about ourselves and how we put our world together than we are about the other person or situation we are describing.

It’s Just a Story – Find Out What Fits

By sharing my judgments, stories, opinions, assumptions, or theories as a story, not claiming them as fact, I create a space for the other person to give me new information.

I can do this simply by adding a phrase such as: “Does that fit for you?” or “Where do you agree or disagree?” or “Tell me where I am wrong.”

That is why we use the term “story” to remind ourselves that we are making it up as we go along. We all are. Why not check to see what fits for the other person?

A Lesson from Jerry

I did get the chance to chat with Jerry as we were leaving at the end of the second day. I told him how I had interpreted his looking down and not saying much as disengagement. I understood now that my interpretation wouldn’t fit for him but wanted to tell him how glad I was to learn something new about him.

Jerry’s response, “You know my wife tells me that all the time. I’ve never have been one to smile or make a big deal out of things. But she has taught me I’d better say something so I am glad I spoke up. I imagine there are others like me. So I’m glad you learned something.”

Steps for Closing the Gaps

There have been many Jerry moments in my life, when I didn’t check out my story in the moment and reacted from an incorrect interpretation of the situation. As a result, I have become much more curious and willing to put out my story as I go and check it out. In doing so, I learn more about others, avoid breakdowns in communications and my world has expanded.

The next time you find yourself judging or story telling, don’t shut down your imagination and creativity, remember to:

  • Speak up

  • Describe how you came to your conclusions

  • Share your story

  • Check it out

Be curious and open instead of making your world limited to your own imagination and perspective.

CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.

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