I was talking to one of my clients the other day about dealing with problem employees, well one employee in particular. I asked him what his instincts told him to do and he said ‘punch him in the face’.
Now in spite of its surface level appeal as a performance management tool this course of action carries several distinct disadvantages from a legal perspective.
What I heard in that statement is someone who is not operating from a grounded state (I know what you are thinking…no shit Sherlock). But this whole discussion did raise an interesting idea which I wanted to explore with you; how do you know when you are taking decisions and actions from a place of grounding rather than your thinking in the moment?
Well as an initial rule when I am confronted with an important task or decision and I am not clear about the state of my mind in the moment, I buy myself time. It is rare in business for situations to occur that absolutely MUST be resolved in the very moment they occur. Whatever the situation that you are confronted with ask yourself this question; ‘if I had more information or time would it be likely that I would see other alternative perspectives and options? If this is a ‘YES’ then do not make a decision or take an action yet.
The two voices
If you really pay attention to what is going on inside your head you will notice the battle between the two voices.
This really goes back to a story in Sleeping Tiger Revolution. When I was working at Orange one of my team came to me with a look of absolute panic on her face. She stuttered and stammered her words as she explained how we had made a huge financial reporting error. It was hard not to get caught up in the panic. She seemed so sure and I felt a wave of panic slowly creeping over my mind. I had images of going to the Finance Director with the bad news, the explosive arguments that would ensure and the implications that the loss of confidence in my team would have. From this place I would have to roll my sleeves up, get into the data and put myself and my team through hell to establish what had happened. But…there was a little voice in my head, vying for attention amongst the panicked thoughts. The little voice said ‘This can’t be right. Something is not stacking up’. Instead of panicking I told her to go away, check her numbers and come back and tell me if she still thought we had a problem in 24 hours. Sure enough it transpired that there was an error in her spreadsheet.
So was this divine wisdom or the intervention of a benevolent universe protecting me? Of course not. The truth is I knew these numbers. They were my responsibility and I had checked and rechecked them every month for three years. There was something that she was telling me that didn’t stack up with everything else I had seen that month. The little voice in my head was my sub conscious doing the maths and telling me no to worry. It was a feeling that made me send her away but it was grounded in data. I have fine tuned my own understanding to know when to trust my instincts (the little voice) but what about you? How can you begin to trust your sub conscious to do the heavy lifting?
When you are grounded there are four incredibly valuable innate abilities that become available to you. They are your curiosity, confidence, creativity and connection.
You can coach yourself by doing exactly what I do when I am sat in front of you. I notice the language (both verbal and non-verbal) that you use when you describe a situation and I am scanning for the answers to the following questions.
- Are you exploring the idea that your own perception of the situation may be off, and are you openly exploring a range of possibilities (curiosity)
- How do you place yourself in the situation? Are you calm and in control or anxious and desperate and are you taking ownership of your response (confidence)
- Are you seeing the opportunity in the challenge and are you considering a variety of solutions and potential outcomes? (creativity)
- Are you considering the feelings and concerns of others and bringing in a range of people into exploring the problem (connection)
If I don’t see any of these demonstrated I am most likely to steer you away from taking any important decisions or actions because they are almost certainly going to be the wrong choice.