Ways That Understanding Your Colleagues can Make You a Better Leader

As a business owner, you spend a lot of time trying to achieve a certain outcome while at work, whether this is winning a large client or perfecting your products. However, there may be a situation that's out of your control which puts a spanner in the works and leaves you feeling disappointed. It may be that your colleague does the opposite of what you were expecting and it can leave you feeling confused about why they did what they just did.

If you don't resolve these problems, the situation may end up reoccuring which can lead to frustration. To improve your results you need to see what went wrong and address it from every angle. But how do you do this?

Uncover the missing stories

There's often a difference between the story we tell and what actually happened. The first step in making sense of what happened is to find the difference between these two narratives.

For example: A new manager feels as though they're openly sharing what should be done and ways in which they think the workflow can be improved. They've been asking for regular status updates and sharing suggestions on the next steps to be completed. Their team has started to get chilly with them even though they feel as though they're being a good leader by fostering open communication and keeping the team engaged with the work.

Now let's look at why the team may be feeling chilly towards the new manager. The oversharing of work and the suggestions being made feel like micromanagement and the regular communication is stifling and intrusive which is counterproductive to the work they're trying to accomplish.

These two different perspectives can show how there's a different narrative depending on whose perspective you're looking from.

If the manager in this situation is defensive and feels as though their way is the right way, the team may not voice their concerns. This can soon lead to resentment within the team towards their manager.

The job of a leader is to uncover the stories that add a greater sense of meaning to a shared experience. If a member of the team stood up to the manager and respectfully voiced their concerns about the management style, this can open a dialogue for change.

To uncover any hidden stories in your business, think about a recent experience that concerns you and reflect on the following:

  • Are there any unknown stories that could provide important information?
  • Are there any stories that others are choosing not to tell, if so, why?
  • Are there any stories that have been told but have been discounted?
  • Are there stories that may be perceived as taboo or off-limits?

Once you identify a potentially missing story, go directly to the person who can tell you about it and invite open and honest conversation. Going back to the manager, they could ask "Have I asked the team about what's going on? Do they know I'm open to honest feedback? What am I doing that's making people uncomfortable about speaking up?"

Look for reasons behind actions

There are several reasons why someone acts the way that they do. For instance, a manager may act a certain way because they feel that's how they "should act", this could be based on previous experience. They may have worked somewhere with an absent boss who left them feeling isolated and unsupported, leaving them to vow they would never be that kind of manager.

If your colleagues are aware of your back-story and why you act the way you do, they may feel willing to cut you some slack over it. This can be one good reason to uncover the hidden story and the reasons why people may act the way that they do.

Try to understand, not judge

When someone acts in a way that isn't expected or wanted, it can lead to some quick, and often negative, assumptions. However, these assumptions may be incorrect and the reason for the action is neither good nor bad. If you stay neutral in your attitude you won't waste energy blaming others for undesired outcomes or lamenting something you can't change.

It's more productive to focus on the atmosphere you want to create in the business and what it'll take to get there. Internally reflecting on what other people are thinking and what they're likely to do next can help.

It can be difficult to carry out things like this when your to-do list is stretched to its limit. But it can be crucial to slow down and carve out space to adopt such habits as they can lead to a grounded and strategic approach to what needs to be done.

Summing Up

The next time you're in a situation that's gone awry, start thinking about why it went the way it did. Don't guess at what went wrong, or assume the worst from those around you. Ask anyone else involved for their outlook on what happened and look to how the situation can be changed for the future and to try and prevent it from happening again.

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