Have you ever got stuck in your own story? You know the one, the one where you are right, and the other person is wrong? The one where you know better and the other person just doesn’t get it? The one where it wasn’t your fault and you are getting the blame so you are bent on defending your position?
In a coaching session yesterday with an executive, we were discussing an issue she was having with another manager. A mistake was made that shut down production for a day and fingers were being pointed to lay blame somewhere. The exec felt the manager was blaming her department when her understanding was that another department usually notified them of low inventory and no such notification had come through. We were brainstorming how she could approach the manager without blame and come to a resolution that would preserve and or improve the relationship and help them move forward together. “But it wasn’t my fault,” she lamented. “Why should I bend?” After sitting in silence with that question out there she sighed and said, “That might be my ego talking, right?”
I have been telling one story for 25 years. It’s about my dog, Larry, who was a racing greyhound. He didn’t understand the concept of a leash; he didn’t realize that if he walked around one side of a telephone pole and I walked around the other side, we weren’t going anywhere.
When I tell this story, I say, “He’s my dog, and I’m boss. But you know what? Until I back off, he’s not going to back off either. If we both back off, then we can go around the damn telephone pole.”
I use this story when working with people on a team who disagree. They are typically committed to maintaining their point of view and communicating it so that other people give in. They have an implicit theory that — keeping with the dog analogy — if they just keep on forging ahead, they’ll drag the other people around to their side of the pole. But since both sides believe this, they get caught up in this seemingly insurmountable disagreement. It’s frustrating. Both groups are trying to go forward, and they see the other side trying to go forward, and yet, they are all stuck at an impasse.
This exec and the manager are on two different sides of the telephone pole trying to drag each other in the same direction. The exec’s current story is “If I give in, I will lose, and I don’t want to lose.” What if she changes her story?
How are your ‘stories’ holding you back?
- How often are you caught up in your own story and not willing to budge on something?
- How often are you to deeply listening and try to understand another person’s story?
- What would be different in your life if you changed your story?
Simmons goes on in the article to say, the story tends to change the context. It makes people stop for a minute and think, “My goal is no longer to make you think like I think. My goal is to create some space so that we can both share what we think, compare notes, and create a new point of view, a much broader point of view.”
This exec and the manager are at a pivotal point in their working relationship. How might that relationship look different if they created the space to listen and work together toward a solution without blame and egos getting in their way?
How willing are you to create that space with people in your life?