It's You. Now What?


You’ve read the previous post (It`s Not Them, It`s You), and you`ve figured out that your team may not be participating in conversations because of your behaviors. You may have asked someone you trust to observe you, or you may be self aware enough to know that you aren`t fostering the kind of relationship(s) with the team that you`d like ?€“ the kind where they actually participate in problem solving, strategy, and take initiative.

You are willing to take some responsibility: what is it that you can do to turn the tide? What are your private intentions for their engagement? How can you facilitate participation by your team? Your personal pledges (plan) to change the situation may look something like this:

Listen more: I will slow down and really listen to what your team is saying. I will learn to catch myself before I speak and stop cutting them off or shutting them down. I will allow silence to unfold because this means my team members are thinking. Thinking is good for them, for me, and for our organization.

Respect and thank your team for their input: I will work on my own belief that I know what is best. I know it will take courage for me to do this, but I need their input in order for us to make balanced decisions. I will not dismiss or ignore their ideas, as they may understand the situation better than I do. I will pause, think, and consider what`s good about what they`ve offered and speak about that. I will thank them for participating.

Ask open ended questions: I will ask questions that begin with the word “what” that you really don`t know the answer to. I will re-read The Art of Inquiry.

Shut up: I will stop asking questions and resist the urge to always provide my own answers. I will be curious and ask more questions. I recognize that by doing this, I will also learn some new things.

Embrace the messenger: I will stop shooting the messenger, and take Mom`s advice when it is appropriate to do so: “If you can`t say something nice, don`t say anything at all.”

Curb impatience and temper: When I reflect on my anger, I often find that impatience and temper are the manifestations of fear. I will consider the fears that may be contributing to shutting others down. I will tame my anger by hitting the pause button and taking some deep breaths to prevent it from showing.

When you are in the process of re-engaging your team, you must be consistent in practicing the above. Ask for their help and feedback to recognize when you steer off course. The changes will take time; they are simple but not easy. Find support and accountability in a trusted mentor or coach, and keep at it. In time, the conversations with your team will flow with creativity, support, and new ideas.


I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

11 comments on “It's You. Now What?

  1. Excellent points in both of these posts, Mary Jo. All your recommendations are so important but require great self-awareness on the part of the leader. In a meeting, it’s always a challenge to track both content and process simultaneously. And if the leader is not also aware of his/her internal reactions to both, problems can result. Monica’s story in your earlier post is a great example.

  2. David, interesting summation. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on how you arrived there. Thanks.

    Meredith, good points. Self awareness is definitely the first step! I ask my clients to observe themselves as if they were divided in two – one being the observer. I think this is a kind of “self awareness in the moment” and often seems to work to remind them to be aware of their actions as they unfold.

  3. Mary Jo,

    Good follow-up to your first piece. I would just add to it that leaders need to also give time to their followers to adapt to this change; that at first, there might be some hesitation at wanting to participate out of fear of reprimands.

    In other words, understand that you’ll have to deal with your team’s ambivalence/wariness toward the both the sincerity of your about-face as well as your desire to stick to it despite the hardship in making the change. Don’t look at their response as indicative that your efforts are not panning out; instead, it’s a natural reaction that they’ve been trained to have under your leadership.

  4. Tanveer, how true. One of the things I find is that leaders will make these kinds of changes, feel that they are “in the habit” with new behaviors – yet when I interview people around them, find that they are still seeing the leader with their old habits. There are lots of reasons for this, but it isn’t usually that the leader isn’t trying. I believe (at least partially) it has to to with the time it takes for others to “catch up” and really see the leader with their new behaviors.

    I am often humbled at the courage it takes for these leaders to have the patience and fortitude to continue when it takes so much longer than anyone might expect.

    Thanks for your insightful input, as always.

  5. You don’t know how many times I’ve entered into a meeting with my coach looking for help to address a team function/disfunction and end up leaving with, “it’s all me.” Eye opening indeed.

  6. Lisa,

    Curious. When you discovered “its all you”, were you able to put personal behavior changes in place that made a difference in correcting the team dysfunction?

  7. Yes, it was like the light went on and I saw things much clearer, once I saw that, things could not stay the way they were. Mostly it involved addressing issues I had been avoiding or publicly stating, “from this point on, here are my expectations . . .”

  8. Hi Mary Jo – I think many managers find themselves in that position where there team has become unresponsive and you offer some great advice on how to break out of that scenario. I would highly recommend Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team to anyone who sees this type of lack of participation in team discussions.

  9. Hi Katy,

    Absolutely! I have used Lencioni’s work and find it brilliantly simple and effective. Thanks.

  10. Mary Jo,

    I wanted to congratulate you on having this post selected as part of February’s Carnival of Trust, hosted this month by Bret L. Simmons.

    The Carnival is held monthly and highlights the top blogposts dealing with the subject of trust in society, business and politics. Your post provides some great insights and advice for how to start moving forward once you’ve acknowledged that you can help make your team a stronger unit, especially if there are issues at hand.

    Great post! We look forward to hearing more from you!

    To check out the rest of the Carnival, please go to:
    http://www.bretlsimmons.com/2010-02/february-2010-carnival-of-trust/

    Best,
    Kristin
    Trusted Advisor Associates, LLC
    http://www.trustedadvisor.com

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