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John Maxwell Team
John Maxwell Team Certified Member

Priscilla Archangel is a John Maxwell Team Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker.

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    Good Leaders Follow the RIGHT Instinct

    Kelley is stressed. He and his team are on a tight deadline to bring a project to market that could significantly boost his company’s revenues for the fiscal year. The hand off from the development team to them was delayed due to technical issues, and the whole project is now backed up. The pressure is intense as the executive committee is now asking for weekly progress reports to ensure their promises to prospective clients and the shareholders will be met.

    At the same time Kelley is exasperated with his team for several errors they’ve made, along with their pushback on part of the strategy that was previously agreed upon. It reached the point that this morning he blew up and let them have it. His words in the brief team meeting were partly uncontrolled anger and partly controlled manipulation. He wanted to make a point and motivate them to stay sharp and move quicker, and to understand the pressure he is experiencing.

    What he neglected to realize though was that it drove them farther into their perception of feeling disrespected and unappreciated and widened the emotional gulf between them. They saw Kelley as being part of the problem. No one wanted to work for him, and they certainly didn’t feel like putting forth their best effort. Both parties blamed each other and were caught in a behavioral loop that was spiraling out of control. The more he pushed, the more they resisted.

    Now Kelley isn’t completely emotionally unintelligent. As he drove into to work thinking about what he would say to the team, he thought about taking a softer approach. He thought about communicating that he believed in their ability to complete the project, on time and under budget. He thought about complimenting some of the members for resolving some unexpected and particularly thorny issues. He recognized that they had put in a lot of hours, foregoing family obligations on behalf of the company. But in the middle of that thought, he got a call from the CFO ranting about the need to get the job done and thereby avoid a financially negative impact.

    What Did Kelley Do Wrong?

    Kelley created a negative narrative in his mind where he saw himself as a victim of everyone else’s shortcomings. This helped him to justify blaming the company officers, other departments and his own team for the current predicament. And he temporarily absolved himself of the responsibility for correcting his own failures in the matter. Unfortunately, any comfort from that is short lived, because the problem persists. And he’s still accountable for the results. This was the wrong instinct, because it left him with no viable relationships to partner with others for the tasks ahead.

    What Should Kelley Have Done Instead?

    Kelley had an instinct to do the right thing, but he neglected to make a commitment to nurture and follow it. Here are three ways to do that.

    1. Put relationships before tasks – Since work can only be accomplished through people, it only makes sense to put our relationships with them ahead of the work that needs to be done. Get to know each person individually. Understand their beliefs and values, their strengths and development needs, and let them get to know you. This builds mutual trust and respect and becomes the “grease” that gets things done quickly later. Remember that a kind word goes a long way.
    2. Understand motivations and preferences – Know what motivates your team and what’s important to them in life. Some people need to feel that their expertise is recognized, others need pleasant words or a thank you. Some need to see the big picture before the details or vice versa. Some want their ideas to be heard or to participate in developing the strategy. Some operate best in crisis mode. Some are well networked internally or externally and can gather helpful information and resources. Know them, then let them play their positions.
    3. Don’t try to change others, change yourself – When we try to change others, we’re operating from the premise that something is wrong with them. When we instead focus on changing what is wrong with our own thinking or behavior, we exhibit greater respect for others and create a shift in the relationship.

    The Right Instinct

    The right instinct is often present, but sometimes pushed away and muted as being unimportant based on the challenges we face. When we learn to pause and listen to that voice, we build positive interactions to support meeting our goals. With practice, this becomes ingrained in our thinking and behavior, and we authentically demonstrate greater care and concern for others.

    So, follow the right instinct.

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