When I present my Leader’s 3 to organizations around the world… A Leader’s Vision & Vision Factors, Expectations, and Rules for their team/s; one word mentioned more than any other is “Respect”. Leaders would like their people to engage respectfully with one another and across departments… as noble as this sounds, it’s also as vague… and vague leads to everyone doing their own interpretation of “Respect” and that’s a potentially dangerous thing! As much as leaders mention “Respect”, many leaders also mention they want status quo and ideas to be challenged. It’s a fine line to tight rope when you’re telling your people to be respectful (without defining what it looks like) and to challenge ideas, their bosses, and coworkers while not knowing if they have a safety net to catch them if and when things go sideways! Therefore, we must give the green light for our people to duke it out from time to time… always with the intent and purpose of upgrading and evolving your processes, your people, your purpose, and client satisfaction! But how?
In my college days, I didn’t have much of an off button! I started my day with 6:00am weight training; as I played college football and that’s how the day begins, went to class all day (or was supposed to), went to football practice, ate, back to the room, out to party, then stayed up late with my best friend (Shawn) until 3:00am playing a video game called Mortal Kombat… and repeat! I share this with you because Shawn and I played that dang-on Mortal Kombat game so much we still talk and laugh about it to this day. The game has spun into movies and a franchise. The premise is there are multiple characters; each with special superpowers, moves, finishing moves, and the scene starts with your chosen player and your opponent’s chosen player facing each other… then a deep and menacing voice says, “FIGHT!”… and all heck breaks loose! Sound a lot like your meetings at work… a C-Suite Meeting or a cross-departmental meeting where every department head and leader thinks their department is the hardest working, is the best, and their idea need to win? As a leader… you must know your people, their superpower, their finishing moves, as well as the buttons to hit to allow evolution as well as protection!
Evolution, professionally or personally, doesn’t occur without a fight, and the best idea for how to thrive in a new environment winning. So, here are 4 Keys to allowing and leading the fight to best enhance your team, your results, your organization, your leadership, and that of your people!
It’s easier as a leader to identify what the problem is, but harder to know who and what department may be in mid-feud, why, and what the heck to do about it! This involves being more engaged with your staff, getting up and away from your desk and emails, observing, and asking questions. What a great opportunity to attend various team meetings unannounced to better familiarize yourself with the duties and issues different teams face and follow through with your 1-on-1 Meetings with Direct Reports to eliminate surprises; enhancing their leadership and work/life harmony skills in the process! This first key won’t drastically change the world or your culture; rather prepares you for “The Fight” you know as a leader is inevitable and is always right around the corner. You’re now more prepared with better information, connection, and perspective!
As a leader, we want to allow challenges to occur and some fights to happen. I can still hear my parents and the older generation who had multiple children telling stories of their kids fighting and offering boxing gloves for them to go settle it! I’m not suggesting you hand out boxing gloves to your people and departments and tell them to settle it… although that would be interesting, Lol! I am suggesting we allow some fights to happen, provide a place for it, set boundaries, and define what a win looks like.
Perhaps it’s a scheduled mediation between two employees or departments, or a regularly scheduled meeting with a time slot for debate and challenge, or a Reveal Meeting with a purpose to roll out a new direction with a focus on best ways to make it happen. Either way, what are the rules and boundaries. It never ceases to amaze me a leader could be the best at leading their team; however behind Meeting Doors with other leadership peers, it can turn into an episode of Game of Thrones… back-stabbing, foul language, everyone has their own agenda, and willing to slit anyone’s throat that gets in their way. This can be done with verbal aggression, rolling of the eyes, constantly cutting people off, vulgar language, passive aggression, and lack of follow-through on everything and anything post-meeting. I could go on, but you get the point!
Therefore, as a leader, what are your rules and boundaries for the “Fights”? No foul language, name-calling, everyone gets to finish their thought, a timer for a person and the meeting… getting people to their point and knowing there’s a definite time limit to a meeting or responses. Perhaps a day or days allotted for a Company Leadership Conference may be helpful. Is there a structure to the meeting to bookend the fights with positives and bonding experiences? The list can go on, but the “Allowing It” and how you “Allow It” matters most and will say a lot about your leadership and your organization’s future…. Be Mindful!
This key is short, sweet, and culture-impacting! Since you know the fact that any people sharing the same space for a long enough period of time will fight… and now that you know how to “Allow It”, it may be best to “Name It”. I’ve heard some great leaders name the process of scheduled fights… and everyone in the building knows what it means, uses it, and evolves through it.
For example, “Let’s doctor this thing” or “Let’s take it to the doctor… let’s find out what’s wrong and the best medicine for it, and ways to prevent it from occurring at all! The key here is to assume everything needs a check-up over time and a plan to find something wrong no matter what… whether it’s a continued health plan or emergency care plan… something will come out of “Let’s take this to the doctor.”!
Parental Unit It!
Every leader that goes into a fight may not come out the same way they went in. Some may come out unscathed with the win and K.O…. their idea and follow-through was a “Flawless Victory”… those of you who know Mortal Combat just smiled and patted me on the back for this one! Some will come out happy with the win, but not without some scars and head trauma. A coworker or boss may have cut them deep and even in a win they got hurt. Some will come out sheathing their idea was rejected for the fourth time in a row. While others could care less and wish they weren’t even there as they’re so busy with their own work and the meeting was in their way, but scheduled for them. I could go on; the most important thing to do after our people “Fight” is for both or all parties to follow-through on the decided plan of action! Leaders understand, after a “professional fight” with coworkers, feelings take time to heal; concerted effort to follow-through on an idea you don’t agree with doesn’t take time… it takes intent… and this is what must be expected!
I equate it to being a parent. Each parent may have different ideas on raising children due to their upbringing, religious or spiritual beliefs, and tolerance levels. Parents may disagree, argue, and go at it behind close doors… but once those doors open… they present as a unified front to the kids. This is you and your leadership team! Do the “Fight” behind close doors… but once those doors open, you and all leaders are a Parental Unit and unified in front of and for the team, employees, organization, and customer/client base… Be Mindful!
You now know how to do A Leader’s Fight… dust off those gloves, set up the ring, set the boundaries, and FIGHT to enhance your processes, your people, your organization, and your impact!!!
“Leaders understand, after a “professional fight” with coworkers, feelings take time to heal; concerted effort to follow-through on an idea you don’t agree with doesn’t take time… it takes intent… and this is what must be expected!” – Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
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