The Right Conversations

Our Four Simple Words Forum this week with my friends Glenna Banda and Melanie Lang was a lot of fun. The three of us shared some experiences around serving teams remotely. It was a great chat and had me reflecting on how I need to be adapting my leadership in these dramatic times of change. For me, this has happened through three different and equally important conversations. 

1. A conversation with Me about letting go

Before I can serve others I need to look in the mirror and check in with myself. It is OK and in fact, necessary for me to understand my own disappointments, needs and challenges to make sure I can put my energies toward the needs of our team and company.

For example, this past month I have had to significantly alter my expectations about what we can achieve in this new working and economic environment. I am grieving the loss of momentum, growth and the very real investment in the people and systems we have made this year. Much of what we have built over the past while is gone or no longer of use. Not seeing an economic, emotional or relationship ‘return’ on all that time, money and energy really, really hurts. It’s quite shitty actually. 

I need to process my own ‘stuff’ and then figure outhow I am going to share my own disappointments with the team. Taking time to internally reflect before I connect with our team allows me to feel sorry for myself for a nanosecond and then reframe the conversation to those things I can control. This step doesn’t have to take long or consume much energy. It just needs to happen so I can get out of my head and focus outward. 

2. A conversation with THEM about acknowledgement 

With my head now in the game, I can check in with those around me to listen and acknowledge what they are going through. Each of us will be dealing with the loss/change/fear/worry/ we are feeling differently. My job is to ASK how the team (individually and collectively) is doing and then shut up and listen. I need to help label the discomfort, acknowledge it’s ok and remind everyone this will be hard. We will also get through this. 

With that acknowledgement, I can then make sure that the team has the means and ability to put on our collective oxygen masks (to borrow a great analogy from Pat Linicioni). Thanks to conversation #1, I can help make sure we are looking after one another, adapting our expectations around how we will get work done and about our short and med-term future.

3. A conversation about US and refocus 

With that initial check in (and lots of follow up) I can lead the team in a conversation about what our new focus is going to be for the foreseeable future. With everything changing around us, we need to find a relevant focus and a new ‘why’. At a time like this, it will likely be a mix of how our skills can help, what we need to do to stay afloat and how we get ready for our new normal. Regardless of what the new rallying cry is, it will be front and center in all our team conversations and decision making. It will be how we can hold ourselves accountable to come through this stronger. 

These are three conversations we all should be having to help us focus on how we can serve ourselves, our teams and the future. I wish you much success and clarity with your conversing this week.

1 thought on “The Right Conversations”

  1. Chris Oldfield

    Thanks Curt. I’m sorry O missed the conversation but I appreciate the summary and your very personal and candid reflection. I started my new job as ED of 4-H this past week. What a time to be taking on something new. I need all the encouragement I can get.

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