Yours, Mine, and Ours
Patty understood the value of reflecting. In fact, she counted on her thirty-minute train commute to provide time to process the events of life and prepare for what was ahead. Tonight, she found herself stuck mulling over her interactions with Beth, a colleague on the team she has been charged to lead.
Every encounter with Beth seemed to put her at odds. Today, Beth constantly questioned her actions; and when she tried to explain her rationale, Beth interrupted her, even finished her sentences. She realized that she needed to move beyond the upset and hurt feelings to approach the situation more productively. How could she enlarge the way she was looking at this situation so that she could create a positive outcome and not a zero-sum game?
Patty liked using images to help her make sense of situations, so she pictured herself face-to-ace with Beth, opposing her. First, she captured her own perspective. She was feeling challenged in her leadership approach, pressed to skip over steps in the team process she believed were critical to achieving their goals. In addition, she felt hurt, disrespected, and defensive from Beth’s impatience.
Next, she pictured herself moving to Beth’s position, trying to feel and think from her perspective. Beth was placed on this team because of her strong track record of getting things done with limited resources. She was more of a command and control leader, yet she enjoyed the loyalty of many in the organization. “If I were Beth, I would be feeling impatient to finish this teamwork so I could focus on my current workload. I might be feeling like I was being reined in from taking immediate action as we follow a step-wise team process that includes other stakeholders and careful analysis.”
Still, Patty realized that she needed another perspective: ours. What would make them successful together and preserve their relationship, too? She zoomed out to “see” the situation from a position that integrated their perspectives in order to make new meaning.
Patty saw that she and Beth actually needed each other. Patty was more deliberate and process-oriented, whereas Beth was a driver of action. If they could find a way to appreciate each other’s styles and capture the best of both, Patty could imagine that they would pay attention to the process and take the right action to achieve more success for the team. They would also benefit from learning together. Patty’s insight allowed her to formulate a plan. She smiled when she realized her plan involved a process for having the difficult conversation and sharing leadership with Beth.
When you find yourself stuck with a colleague, direct report, or boss, take time to move to different perspectives. Try debating a topic from one side of the argument and then the other. Notice what happens to your perspective when you assume these different positions. Instead of assuming your perspective is complete, try zooming out to see the hidden drivers of your go-to style and a bigger picture.
For Patty, that meant using her reflecting style to go deeper to make new meaning and listen in new ways. She needed time and patience to enlarge her view and process her feelings. Yet Patty needed to make sure her need for process and perfection did not prevent her from taking any action at all. She might lose momentum and never achieve a goal.
How can reflecting style contribute to your leadership?
The skills of reflecting style will provide the foundation for you to:
• Listen at a deep level. Listen for what is being said, as well as what is not being said. By focusing on the other person with deep curiosity, you will shift your orientation to engage both intuition and fact-finding, and build trust too.
• Pay attention to process. By creating exceptional processes, you will be guaranteeing better outcomes.
• Pause to be intentional in your action, and to create time and space for others to participate.
* Reflecting style is one of the nine learning styles featured in How You Learn Is How You Live: Using Nine Ways of Learning to Transform Your Life by Kay Peterson and David A. Kolb.