You may remember the newsletter about a client of mine who worked through a highly emotional situation with “the dictator.” Only a short while later, I encountered another client with an even trickier situation.
Chris is a calm and friendly 35-year-old manager, who struck me from the beginning as someone who was very kind. In a “fast-track” career, he had risen rapidly through the ranks of a medium-sized Swedish consumer electronics company. Based in the UK, he was now leading its global supply chain operations.
Chris absolutely loved his job. He viewed it “like a hobby” where he enthusiastically “created top-notch service solutions” for his clients. His passion for the job had him working 60-hour weeks for the last eight years. By his own admission, he’d been close to burn out two times and was currently doing double duty… handling two important job assignments within the company.
It presented a massive challenge.
Chris was not getting along well with his interim boss, the Managing Director of UK operations. “He attacked me personally” Chris said. The strained relationship created an unprecedented level of emotional turmoil, anger, and frustration in Chris.
He described the Managing Director as a “noisy bully” from the “older generation,” who drove all decisions from the “top-down.” Each encounter with the man was tough. Conversations were always highly tense, and just recently, the tension had come to a head during a team meeting. The “bully” raised his voice and personally criticised Chris in front of everyone for a small mistake he’d made on one of his slides. Piece by piece, “the bully” ripped Chris apart, leaving him feeling incompetent, humiliated and ashamed.
It was bad. As in the case with Alice, we applied the Thoughts Feeling Behaviour worksheet to the situation, which gave Chris some good insights on what was going on inside himself as he tried to work through this mess.
We had to change the dynamic.
As a first step, I asked Chris what about the situation was within his control? At that point, he still felt quite helpless and said, “It feels like there’s nothing in my control here!”
So, we worked through the CIC model, which was developed by Steven Covey as part of his book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. This tool looks at the things in our Control, what we can Influence, and what Covey calls our Concern, which he also described as the “circle of no-control.”
Step by step, we identified Things in Chris’ control. By the end of our session, he was surprised at how many things he did have control over and walked away feeling better and clearer:
In an effort to increase his degree of control, Chris wanted to set up a one on one meeting with the bully. Fine. But we needed to prepare for this well. So, we applied the tool, Non-Violent Communication (NVC) by Marshall Rosenberg, an American psychologist, author and teacher.
I personally see NVC as a compelling and strategic way to convey challenging messages. The trick is to focus on oneself, rather than “blaming” the other person or people involved. In “I-messages,” where the focus is on you, not the other person, you can create a more open and constructive dialogue.
The model consists of four steps… (1) sharing the facts, (2) how it makes one feel, (3) what one needs, and (4) the request you have of the other side. In preparation for the meeting, we outlined the content of our four steps:
- Facts: We are in a crisis due substantial shipment delays. Some of the recent meetings have not been productive, and there are outstanding matters awaiting urgent decisions / inputs. This causes challenges for me, especially since I am only stepping in as interim manager, able to allot just 50% of my time to the job.
- Feelings: If I am honest, this situation leaves me frustrated and feeling left alone.
- Need: Moving forward, I would need a more open, calm and supportive collaboration with you.
- Request: To get there, I suggest we establish a weekly one on one meeting… for me to share updates, make decisions in a constructive way together, and get problems under control quickly.
We role-played it two times, and then Chris went forth bravely to meet the bully.
Fortunately, it turned out much better than we expected. By the end of the meeting, the bully even apologized to Chris for having been “a bit emotional.” They agreed to schedule regular one on one meetings together and came together on a plan to resolve the service crisis. They aren’t the best of friends, but now, Chris walks into any encounter with the “bully” with his head held high. The conversation… especially Chris’s sharing of his feelings and needs… has changed the interpersonal dynamics. He gets more respect and support.
My challenge to you today is simple. When you are in a difficult spot and struggling to get a challenging message across, ask yourself what is in your control. Then, work through the four simple steps of Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication (NVC) approach.
- What are the facts?
- How does it make you feel?
- What do you need?
- What is the request of the other side?
It may look a bit cumbersome at the first glance, but give it a shot.
It has the ability to work magic.