In this installment of Align and Unleash, we focus on three powerful leader interactions. Each interactions serves as a bridge from alignment to unleashing needed action. when you use each one at the appropriate moment, you increase the likelihood of advancing your mission.
This segment of the audio program focuses on:
- The power of interactions
- The Three Interactions
Below are two resources:
1. A 64-minute audio program focused on the three interactions (below with transcript)
2. An infographic describing the alignment process
Click Here to Download the Three Powerful Leader Interactions Infographic
Below is a transcript of the audio program. Forgive any mistakes the A.I. might have made in the transcription process.
Align and Unleash – Three Powerful Leader Interactions
This is Dave Fleming at The Ingenuity Lab.
Align, and unleash. These two elements form a powerful dynamic on a team that enables not only higher performance, but greater effectiveness in the team’s pursuit of its mission. Whether you’re a contributor, or a formal leader, or whatever your role on a team is the ability to align well maintain that alignment, and then focus collective energy around the tasks, projects initiatives. And overall mission is what advances important work in the world.
In this segment of the audio program, will focus on the interactions that formal leaders have with those on their teams, and how to enhance those, those interactions, those sometimes serendipitous, and sometimes planned interactions, so that the outcome of those interactions is greater inspiration, energy and engagement in the mission, how we interact with each other matters, and leaders not to mention anyone on a team, but leaders in particular, can breathe life, or suck life out of the team, depending on how their interactions go.
If you’re a formal leader, then today, we’ll explore how your interactions can make a significant difference in the outcomes of your team. If you’re not a formal leader, you will still find these important qualities and actions, something that you can do. But I would also encourage you to listen to it from the standpoint of how can I enter into these interactions with my leader in a way that enables me to get the most out of them, and to advance my own work, and donate that work to the team?
Stop for a minute. And think about a person who has significantly influenced your life. Who comes to mind. Now, when you break down exactly what that person did, to influence you. It does at one very basic level, come down to the interactions you had with that person. Whether you talk about words of wisdom that they gave you, or times that they spent with you, or lessons you learn from them, or whatever it whatever it is that you think of that frames, why they were influential. It comes down to interactions, to micro moments that accumulate over time. interactions have power.
No, of course interactions on a team matter. The way a team vibes together communicates relates as the team does its work makes a significant difference in the quality and effectiveness of that work. And the outcomes or products or services or whatever it is that they create, how they vibe matters, and how leaders facilitate that both at the individual and team level matters. Interactions matter. And we want to talk about three types of interactions that leaders have with people.
Not necessarily every day, but important moments important intersections of interaction. And the more we use these three types of interactions effectively, the more aligned and unleashed the energy of the team will be. Again, both the individual energy Have a particular person on the team and the collective energy of the entire team. Now, what separates these three interactions from each other is the duration and direction, the duration and direction of each kind of interaction.
The three types of interactions that we’re going to talk about, have different timeframes of duration. And they are all three aimed at helping provide a certain kind of direction to an individual or to the entire team. So here are the three types of interactions, nudge, coach, correct. Nudge, coach, and correct. Let’s look at all three. The first important kind of interaction is a nudge. Now, the duration of a nudge is brief. From 10 seconds to two minutes. I like to think of the direction of a nudge, as a reminder of what matters. A nudge is a reminder of what matters, it’s, it’s pointing people back in the direction of something that matters. And it can be 1000 Different kinds of reminders about 1000 Different kinds of things. It can be about a personal behavior, it can be about a team dynamic, it can be about a reminder about the work ahead, it can go on and on and on. It can be humorous, it can be serious, it can be riveting, it can be compelling, it can be casual. It can be unrehearsed or planned. But a nudge is a reminder of what matters. And at its essence, the power of it is in its brevity. There are times in life where lots of words is important.
If you’re learning an entire discipline, or area of study, let’s say you’re learning to be a doctor. Well, that’s going to take a lot of words, the brevity there is not always going to be helpful, because you’re going to have to learn an entire language in order to become a doctor. And then you’re going to have to specialize and your specialty is also going to have its own language. And that requires a lot of words. So there are times where a lot of words can be really good.
There are times where a four hour podcast can change my life, it may take me a while to listen to it. But the the amount of words allows for covering the terrain of a subject in a way that a tick tock video just can’t do. But there is also power in brevity. There is also power, in few words, that are arranged in a way to bring out an important idea with a kind of one pointed attention that it stays in the consciousness of the hearer of the listener. This is why there are certain kinds of wisdom quotes. Small one liners, if you will, that can really change our lives.
Like one of my favorite is a stoic quote from Marcus Aurelius: The best revenge is to be unlike the one who injured you. How powerful is that? What a great piece of wisdom in just a few words. And it’s in the few words, that the power of the concept becomes even more impressive, because I just remembered that I just pulled that out of my mind. If it was a page of a book or a chapter of a book, I might be able to give you the essence of it, but I couldn’t give you the actual words, but I can remember the best revenge is to be unlike the one who injured you. I can remember that. And in so few words, it captures something so powerful.
That’s what a nudge Does a nudge to someone on your team captures something important you want to remind them of in any moment. So let’s talk about a few examples. Sometimes nudges are reminders of important behavioral action that you’ve talked with a team member about that now in a particular moment is important for them to demonstrate. So imagine talking with someone on your team, and you’ve asked them to lead a project. And they’re pulling the team together on a regular basis to have meetings and to talk about deadlines and solutions that are needed.
And all the things that go on with creating, executing, and completing projects. And in one of your conversations, let’s say two or three weeks ago, you talked about how they think it’s going when they’re leading meetings. And they said that they were wrestling with the person who’s leading that you gave this project to said that she let’s say it’s her name is Mary, Mary said that it’s hard for her to know when to be firm, and when to be more accommodating to the team’s view. And so you had, let’s say, a 20 minute conversation, a 1520 minute conversation on the art of knowing when to draw a line and be directive, and when to be more open and participative. And allow the team to provide the direction for itself.
And you had a really good conversation about it. And you came up with this mantra around the idea of being both firm and open at the same time, firm with the right boundaries when needed, but open to the magic of the team at the same time. And you talked a little bit about how the, the execution of that mantra to be firm and open is something that really requires a mindfulness, something that really requires a attentiveness, right? In the meeting to know how to move, should I be more firm? Should I draw a boundary?
Or should I enable the team to really explore and participate in finding the way themselves. Now, let’s say that that was a really meaningful conversation. And you’re walking in the room for a project meeting, and you walk in just in front of Mary. And she’s the last person coming into the room, everyone is settling into their chairs, and you turn around and you nudge her, just as you’re walking in, you turn around and walking backwards, you say to her firm, and open, firm and open. And then you smile, turn around and walk in the room and sit down. That is a nudge. That is a reminder to Mary, about the conversation that you had a couple weeks ago, and about the attentiveness and mindfulness she needs to bring to this moment that she’s about to walk into and lead. It’s what four seconds. If that firm and open. That’s it. That’s a nudge.
It’s a reminder of something that when you click on it, it’s like clicking on an icon that opens up a giant file on your computer, all of the conversation that you had with Mary comes flooding back to her as you are walking backward into the room smiling at her saying firm and open. This is a nudge that will remind her to bring her best to that meeting. Now there’s a really similar nudge that can happen if you’re trying to remind someone or a team of a dysfunction to avoid. So let’s just say Mary is overly aggressive in a meeting and she speaks too frequently and too quickly and shuts the team down and you’ve had a conversation with her. And the conversation went really well. And maybe a mantra that you came up with that you talked about with her was listen,
before you speak. Listen, before you speak or listen and understand before or you speak or, or draw out the genius of the team. Maybe you were talking to Mary and you said, you know, when you come too fast with too much aggressiveness in the conversation, it’s shutting down the perspective of the team. And it’s in the perspective of the team that you can really get the magic going. So slow down, listen, and draw out the genius of the team. So same scenario, you’re walking into the meeting, you turn around walking backward, and you look at Mary, drought, the genius of the team dropped the genius of the team. So these would be performance based nudges, things that you’re talking to an individual on your team about, where you’re trying to help them increase their performance, either come up to a certain standard or surpass that standard, in some way. And these are just small little dosing of a reminder to focus on that important behavior.
Now, there’s another kind of nudge I mean, there are hundreds of nudges, you can come up with your own versions of them. But here’s another one. Another kind of nudge is when let’s say you’re working with your team, and you’re working on an important piece of, of a project or a solution that’s needed. And you’ve hit a particular part of the work that’s uniquely challenging. And occasionally, the team is finding itself whining and complaining. And let’s say you’ve even identified this that were whining and complaining too much about this particular part of the work. And in a team meeting, you decided that you’re going to turn complaining into solution making complaining into solution making. And so when you’re coming into the meeting, let’s say you sit down, everybody sits down, and you say something like this.
You know, the other day, I was doing one of my high intensity runs, and my legs started to hurt. And what I realized was, I’m not doing a good enough job at my current age, to stretch and ready myself for my run. And so my leg was complaining about this to me. And what it reminded me to do was get on the solution side. And what’s the solution side, the solution side is stretching more, we need to do the same. We need to remember that when we complain about this particular challenge in this work, we need to get on the solution side as quickly as possible. It’s okay to complain if it leads to a solution.
Just like it’s okay for my leg to complain. If it leads me to better stretching. There you go. There’s the nudge that was under one minute. nudges can happen as you’re walking down the hallway as you’re walking into a meeting, as you’re walking to your car, as you’re talking at, quote the water cooler as you’re having lunch. As you’re as you’re, as you’re these little micro moments of interaction where you intersect in a meaningful way to draw back something important.
As a reminder, whatever that might be. It could be about alignment. You could be sitting with your team and you could say okay, team. Let’s go to the next agenda item here. We’re talking about Project X. And remember, we came to a really important choice point last week, we were misaligned around some of the work that’s been given to us and we had that really good conversation and we got realigned. Remember that today. Remember there’s power in our one mindedness. And if we lose our one mindedness today, let’s work to get it back. These small, reminder oriented nudges. Bring back important information in micro moments. Think of them as just in time reminders, just in time reminders, where you’re just nudging,
inspiring, challenging, engaging, energizing, reminding, whatever it might be, just in time you nudge to help someone continue to move in an important and purposeful and positive direction. Now, the beautiful thing about a nudge is that it’s really brief. So even if you don’t have a lot of time to sit down and have a long conversation, you do have time to nudge. If you think about the nudge, before it happens. Now, if you’re good at spontaneously nudging, that’s great. And the more deliberate you are, in your nudges, the better you will get at the spontaneous ones as well. But you do sometimes have to think deliberately and intentionally about a moment ahead, where you want to insert a nudge, and then think about the language you want to use. Maybe roll it around in your head, and then deliver it when you get to that moment. And watch what happens when you bring Justin time reminders of important positive, energizing reminders to your team or to an individual on it.
The second kind of interaction is coaching. A coaching is different than nudging. In that it’s not about just a reminder, although it can include a nudge, so you can use a nudge to coach for sure. But the difference between a nudge and coaching is a nudge is again, very brief, one less than a minute to two minutes in length. And it’s the ability to evoke something back out of a person or a team that they need in a moment. A critical reminder, coaching, on the other hand, is a slightly longer amount of conversational time, where the the direction is about improvement. If the direction of a nudge is about a reminder of something that matters, a coaching conversation is about exploring how to improve on some behavior, or set of behaviors that will better advance the work again, whether that’s in an individual, or as a team.
Of course, the best illustration of coaching usually comes from the sports world. I think music also has some elements of coaching that you can bring over and translate nicely into the business world or an organizational world or a team dynamic. But sports is really, I believe one of the best parallels to how we should think about coaching at work. So let’s think about some of the important elements of coaching. First of all, coaching assumes improvement mindset is at the heart of the conversation. If there’s not an improvement mindset, coaching is not going to be received well. If a person is not receptive, or desiring of improvement, then coaching will be seen perhaps as something as a threat to their current way of performing. But once we have flipped into an improvement, Betterment mindset, then coaching is welcomed, I want coaching, I want someone who can help me make the adjustments necessary in my behavior to get better.
Now an easy mistake to make when you’re starting to think about wanting to be a coach as a leader is to think that you should just dive in and start coaching. It’s such an embedded part of our world now to give feedback and to talk about coaching that we sometimes miss that some people and some cultures, inside organizations or on teams aren’t really ready for coaching.
Because they either have a negative view of it, they’re threatened by it, it’s not gone well in the past with somebody else, or the culture just isn’t amenable to the idea of coaching. So if you think that might be your team or your organization, here are three messages to lace into your conversations about improvement and coaching before you start, or at least As you’re coaching, sometimes we have to do some coaching. But these three messages are critical. Number one, when we talk about improvement, you’re not in trouble. Unfortunately, in a lot of organizations improvement is something to be avoided. In fact, when someone is in trouble even severely enough that they’re connected to HR, it’s often a plan about improvement that initiates the conversation about the problem. Some organizations even call it a performance improvement plan, really, is that really what we should call that? Let’s make the word improvement, something everyone wants to avoid. I think that’s probably something we should reconsider. improvement should be reserved for a positive experience. In an organization, every buddy should want to improve. Everybody should hold the betterment of their skills, their actions, their behaviors, the things that make up their work, the energy of their work.
All those things that are attached to improvement should be held as positive, engaging, and desirable. As soon as improvement is something to avoid, because we think we’re in trouble. The word improvement and the idea behind it is going to be something that repels people. So first, declare, you’re not in trouble when we talk about improvement. Why? Number two, because we’re all committed to improvement here in this organization. Now, that means that, generally speaking, that has to be the case, you have to have a culture of improvement.
But if you can say, look, you’re not in trouble when we talked about improvement, because we all talk about improvement, we all want to improve. So it’s a collective desire here to improve. And number three, improvement is not accidental. So we talk about it because you don’t accidentally become better at something. Roger Federer, one of the greatest tennis stars ever to play, the game, didn’t stumble onto a court one day, pick up a racket and win 20 grand slams. There’s a deliberateness to improvement that requires energy and resources, and practice and attention. And we understand what it takes to get better at something. So the three messages, you’re not in trouble.
When we talk about improvement, we’re all committed to improvement, including me, your leader. And number three improvements, not accidental, we have to be deliberate. And one of the ways we’re delivered is through coaching. So once you’ve started to embed those in the culture, and that might take some time, you might have to talk about those messages over and over again, sometimes one on one, sometimes as a team, model conversations from yourself about improvement, talk about where you’re improving, bring up an article and read it together, make it a very positive, engaging activity to improve. And then as that happens, then start working the coaching element of improvement, which is helping people identify areas for improvement. Number one, where should you improve and in an organization, a team or an individual needs to find a Venn diagram overlap between two elements, it needs to be something at the individual level that helps me do better at my work, or the team as a whole, do better at their work.
And on the other hand, if it’s an individual, it needs to benefit the team. And if it’s a team, it needs to benefit the entire organization. So part of identifying an area for improvement, if you’re working with an individual is to identify something that will make them better at their work and simultaneously contribute to the team in a more engaged, energizing and positive productive way. If you’re coaching a team, you want something you want to identify an area where improvement as a team will help them do their work better and also serve the larger organization. So you identify an area then you isolate b behaviors in that area. Behaviors that if you change, you will get better. What would it take to get better at a particular skill set, or a particular behavior or action or activity, once you have been able to isolate the behaviors, so let’s go back to Mary.
Mary wants to do a better job at drawing out the genius of the team and not jumping in so much well, maybe we need to help isolate out for Mary, a kind of positive restraint on herself. Maybe she needs to learn patience. Maybe she needs to learn how not to insert her opinion too quickly. Maybe she needs to learn how to wait and not talk so quickly. So early in a conversation, maybe she needs to get better at asking questions. Maybe we need to help Mary become a world class designer of questions.
Now, that’s something we can isolate out. Let’s take the question, getting good at asking questions of the team? Is that something? Is that a behavior that you can isolate out? Yes. And in that isolated behavior? Will what area is that connected to it’s connected to Mary’s ability to better lead the team and facilitate the genius of the team, so they come up with better solutions and ideas that will advance their work? So far? So good. Now we want to help Mary get better at asking more robust, more curiosity oriented questions. Well, we can do that, either by giving her a resource, or talking with her about what do you think makes a good question when you’ve been on a team? And you’ve had a leader that’s really drawn out the team through good question making?
What do you think they’re doing? Well, they’re certainly being open ended? You know, they’re not, it’s not too leading of a question, because then it just feels like a statement with a question mark at the end. Okay, yeah, that’s good. But it’s also got to be specific, it’s got to be about a specific area. If it’s too broad and general, like, Hey, how you doing? Then that doesn’t really get it either. So now you’re starting to talk to Mary about, okay, we want to learn how to create questions that are both open and targeted. Let’s practice Mary, what’s something you want to draw out the perspectives and the genius of the team? When it comes to the meeting next Tuesday?
What’s the question you want to ask them? Then you and Mary worked on making that open and targeted, this is coaching, this is coaching. And then if you can see Mary in action, all the better. If you can’t see Mary in action, then you have to get feedback to help her have a realistic picture of how she’s actually performing the area. She’s trying to improve the skill that she’s trying to to improve the behavior that she’s trying to improve. And then you have to see, is it working? Is change occurring? Is the team being drawn out more? And that requires something you can measure? Is the team conversing more? Is the team coming up with more ideas? Are those measurable? Absolutely. Is the team more engaged? Can you notice if the team’s more engaged? Absolutely. There are things there we can measure. And then we evaluate, and either continue, because it’s working or change it because it’s not.
Maybe Mary’s asking questions. But when she doesn’t get the first round of answers that she likes, she starts to get angry and a little frustrated, and it’s leaking out in the conversation and everybody shuts down again. Well, now we have something else we need to work on. It’s really good that Mary’s learning how to ask questions. But if her her reaction is frustration, then that question is gonna get only so far before the team shuts down. So now we need to help Mary maybe look at something in herself. Why does she react so quick? What is it about? The team not coming up with the ideas she wants? That causes her to react? That she not really is she just looking for the team to come up with the ideas that she likes? And if they don’t, is she just going to default back to being overly directive and calling all the shots? What’s going on here? Maybe Mary needs to focus on something in herself. Now all of this is dependent On the situation that you find yourself in, I can only give you examples, you know, scenarios based on possible situations, because I’ve been in so many of them with people I’ve coached over the years and teams that I’ve been a part of and lead, and also worked with. But you know, the specific areas where helping someone individually on your team get better at an activity or an action or behavior, or your team is really worth focusing time and coaching.
Now, coaching takes a bit longer and requires more follow up than a nudge. So if you’re going to coach, you have to map the time it’s going to take, the worst thing you can do is start a process of coaching with someone and drop them in the middle of it. They won’t trust you, they won’t trust the process. Coaching requires an investment. But that investment pays dividends far beyond what you can imagine, in the moment of that 15 or 20 minute conversation, even if it’s just 10 to 15 minutes, with some deliberate and intentional work outside of the coaching conversation.
What you light, what you ignite in the coaching session cannot only lead to a person focusing their effort and their energy on changing a behavior that matters. But down the road, it can multiply into better outcomes, you could never have predicted. What if Mary ends up not only becoming a really great question maker, but what if she actually becomes a really good leader. And she takes your role as you succeed in the organization into a role with more scope. And you helped Mary move the trajectory of her entire career upward. Somewhat due to those moments of interaction and inter section.
Coaching takes a bit more time. But it is well worth it, if you’re willing to stay with it. And if the person you’re coaching is receptive, then that relationship of coach and coachee can change literally how not only the individual works, but how the team as a whole works. Everything we’ve talked about can also be applied to the team. Coaching is a powerful dynamic. If you’ve had a coach that’s made a difference in your life, you know this to be true.
I want to encourage you make sure the three messages are present in your culture. When we talk about improvement, you’re not in trouble. We’re all committed to improvement and improvement isn’t accidental. Then, once you feel that those messages are sufficiently moving, you’re still going to have to build trust. If the culture is not open to coaching, because of poor attempts in the past, you’ll still have to build trust. But over time, you will then move through the process of finding an area isolating the behavior, talking specifically about how to change that behavior, getting tangible, getting ways to measure if that change is occurring because of the behavioral shift, evaluating, looking for more areas, adapting when necessary, staying with it when it works, and shifting when it doesn’t.
And rinse and repeat and rinse and repeat. And pretty soon you have yourself an improvement oriented culture. Watch out. This is the bridge between alignment and unleashing, when we help people get better at what they do. We walk across the bridge from alignment at the idea level to an unleashing of their energy and engagement in the organization. And that is where the magic is Now, sometimes coaching doesn’t work. And that leads us to the third kind of interaction, corrective conversations.
The final conversation, the final interaction, where leaders and people intersect to walk across that bridge, and hopefully move from alignment to unleashing is corrective conversations. Now, these are hard conversations, nobody really likes them. But this means that coaching at some point was not enough, or it has nothing to do with coaching, and someone has strayed into inappropriate behavior. These are also extremely important conversations to have in an organization. And I want to just put this out right at the beginning of this segment.
Your organization has its policies and procedures, and understandings of the legal implications of correction in your organization. And so I would never try to speak specifically about how to correct in your organization that has to come from your work as a leader, with HR and perhaps your leader. And this is one of those moments where we need the wisdom, often of many people to move through a corrective action process with a person. So always bring the appropriate stakeholders into corrective action and corrective conversations, beginning with HR and compliance and legal and whatever else might be important for you, your own leader. Don’t try and go this alone. Now, here are some general ideas about correction. First, there’s a difference between a coaching conversation and a corrective conversation. a coaching conversation is reserved for improvement. And improvement ought to be a holy grail in your organization, something that’s positive and everyone’s engaged together, in moving through the process of improvement, save that conversation of coaching for good things.
If someone strays into inappropriate behavior, then corrective conversations, corrective action, is about eliminating that behavior, where coaching is about improving behaviors. And sometimes improving behavior does mean that I have to dial down certain behaviors that still can be part of coaching. You know, Mary is Mary’s talking too much and too soon in her team meetings. So we want to help Mary, let’s say eliminate a reactivity in that moment. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a violation of a policy, a protocol, a procedure, a compliance issue, something that rises to the level of what I call inappropriate organizational behavior, you can’t do it. This needs to be really clear. Coaching is for improvement. Corrective conversation, and action is to eliminate inappropriate organizational behavior. If you can keep those separate from each other, you can save yourself a lot of grief. When it’s about improvement, and it’s not organizationally in appropriate behavior, stay in the coaching lane. When it is about organizationally inappropriate behavior, like that’s not okay. You can’t do that and remain here. Then you shift to corrective conversations.
Now, one thing that’s so important here and why I’m starting here, is because if you can identify that it’s time for a corrective conversation, because the person has crossed over into inappropriate organizational behavior. You can’t do that. Then this conversation already becomes easier to have. Because now there’s going to be a really clear boundary. The problem is sometimes people try to make corrective conversations feel like coaching conversations on the improvement side, and then things get all out of whack. Because then it just feels to the person who is sort of the person in question, if you will, that we’re just having another conversation about coaching.
And I think I’m doing really good at getting better. I know you don’t, but that’s not fair, who makes you the person to get to decide this. And then we get into all these murky waters around correction. Keep corrective conversations, and action. For one thing, and one thing, only the elimination of organizationally inappropriate behavior. You can’t do that. If you keep the conversation around corrective action, about eliminating this kind of inappropriate behavior, you’ve already made your life easier. And frankly, you’ve already made the person who needs the corrective action, you’ve made their life easier to because now we’re out of the murkiness, this is about elimination, not about improvement. Make sure the right people in your organization have helped you determine that it’s time for a corrective conversation, or action. And then the appropriate people need to be involved. And I can’t discern for you who those people are.
I mean, there are some usual players, someone from HR, probably your leader, and there may be others that that play a specific role when corrective action and conversations are needed. I don’t know who those are. But don’t go these roads alone. The next piece is to remember that when you are entering into a conversation about correction, you enter it from a mindset of change, not punishment. This is not about punishing a person. Now, if a person has done something that requires a kind of punishment, say someone has to be put on administrative leave, or something else has to be done. That, quote, punishment also needs to be framed as a wise action that’s being done to make space for the change that we need to figure out that needs to happen.
We need space to be able to wisely find that, whatever that is, whatever you need to eliminate. Remember, this approach to corrective action cannot come from a place of punishment. But from a place of desire to see the person change. If you come from a place of punishment, you already stack the deck against the conversation. Ultimately, correction is about change in behavior. We’ve already we’ve already noticed that we’ve already seen that we’ve already decided that, that this particular action that this person took or behavior that they displayed is not just something that we need to you know, kind of talk about trying to improve or if you can do a better job at maybe kind of keeping it from happening. No, no, no. This is about elimination. So if it’s not about elimination of a violation of something that is organizationally inappropriate. You don’t need to move to corrective action, you need to stay on the improvement side. Mary doesn’t need corrective action for interrupting in a meeting too soon,
and throwing her opinion out. Now if she follows that by throwing something a stapler at someone, and and, you know, cussing them out, okay, okay, now we might be in, we’re in a different terrain there. But everybody has things they have to work on. That’s why it needs to be clear what organizationally inappropriate behavior is This will save you so much frustration. The sooner you know that you have identified a behavior that needs correction, the sooner you need to move to have the conversation and talk about the elimination of the behavior.
The longer you wait, the harder this becomes. Once you know you’ve moved to corrective action and behavior, then bring the right people in and execute the appropriate process. So now let’s dive into the conversation itself. What does it look like to have a conversation about corrective action, this can also be a really important intersection and interaction between a leader and a person, and it can help to realign that’s what the corrective action process is realign them so they can unleash their energy appropriately in the organization. So when you have this conversation, there does need to be a difference in your demeanor and tone, between the corrective action conversation and a coaching conversation. The first is to bring a kind of soberness to your approach, your demeanor, and your tone. Why?
Well, specifically, we need this soberness because we’re now crossing over into an inappropriate organizational behavior that needs to be eliminated. So on the improvement oriented side, it’s all about support and positivity, and moving forward around that improvement, whatever that is, on the corrective action side. It’s all about elimination. And it’s all about a soberness around what could occur if elimination of the inappropriate behavior doesn’t take place. That’s why corrective conversations need to be reserved for inappropriate behavior, because then it’s so crystal clear that the conversation is both easy to have, and more sober in tone, because this is about elimination. So you’re both compassionate, and firm. You’re both compassionate, and firm, we all make mistakes, we all make big mistakes in our lives and our careers. And what we need in those times is a firm boundary.
When that firm boundary is required, no doubt about it. We all need those, we don’t like them, particularly if we’ve blown it in a way that requires an elimination of a behavior. Or to really make a U turn away from the way we’ve been behaving, it’s hard when someone lays down a boundary. That’s why we also need to be compassionate as we do this for other people, because we all know what it’s like to have a boundary laid down. Without compassion. It sucks. It’s painful. And the feeling of judgment doesn’t in any way, make me or the person in this scenario. It doesn’t mean any way make me or anyone want to move away from that behavior. When it comes with a tone of judgment,
compassion, and firmness, moving at the same time, in your tone, in your voice, in your words, in your actions. This is an important part of, of how to move through these conversations. Now, again, I can’t give you specific scenarios, because I don’t know your situation. I don’t know the world you’re in. But if you get to a point where you have to have a corrective action conversation, then it’s still important for you to understand the view of the employee.
It doesn’t mean you’re going to agree with it. But understanding the perspective might help you understand why they did what they did. Sometimes we do things for motives that are unseen to others that once others see those motives. They can come in With more compassion, and correction can be more laser targeted. Some times people do inappropriate organizational behavior, mindlessly they didn’t mean to do it, they made a mistake.
Sometimes there’s more intention. But either way, either way, unless the person is just going to be dismissed. That’s it, they’re being terminated. Unless they’re being terminated, at some point, there needs to be a conversation with them about why they did it, what they were thinking, and letting them process that through. Because why, why is that important? Because you are looking for change, not punishment, you’re looking for change. And there may be clues in what the person says, as they explain, that helps you bring about the necessary change with them.
So we bring a compassionate, firm, together simultaneously approach I call this being resolute in my presence. So if I’m a leader, and I’m having a conversation like this, I’m resolute in my presence, I have a sober tone. Dave, I just want you to understand that we’re having a corrective action conversation here. And we’re going to talk about this behavior that needs to be eliminated. And this is serious, I’m giving you a verbal warning today, along with this conversation. And Dave, I don’t want this to go any further than this. I believe in you.
And I believe this can be corrected. And I believe after our conversation today, we’re going to make a turn away from this, you’re going to eliminate this, and your career here is going to move forward. Now that is not necessarily the words you’re going to use because I don’t know the situation you find yourself in. If you’re giving someone a verbal warning, and this was the first time maybe those words are pretty close to what you would say. But if this is further down the road and corrective action, it may not be enough. What I’m really trying to point out is the tone and the soberness listen to the tone, and the soberness go back and listen to it one more time.
I tried not to be judgmental. But I did try to have a tone that was serious, and yet hopeful, serious and yet hopeful, because the employee needs to understand the line. Now, if this is just a kind of one and done, a person did something, it was the first time they’re getting a verbal warning, you’re going to have one conversation. And that’s that that’s one thing that those it’s not that those are easy, but they’re less complicated. But if you’re in the process of change with someone where they’re eliminating inappropriate behavior, and you’re gonna have to check in with them on a number of times, let’s say it is something like they’re, they’re swearing at work or they’re have anger issues, and you really are going to need that eliminated. But that doesn’t usually just get eliminated in one moment. You are going to have to walk a process of change.
As long as you are walking, a process of change, about eliminating organizationally inappropriate behavior, keep your resolute presence. This is not just about coaching for improvement. This is about correction for elimination. So stay resolute. Once it’s been resolved, then you can drop that, but while you’re in the process of corrective action, when you talk about it, when you check in about it, check in with that same resolute presence, there needs to it needs to feel to the person that is in the corrective action process. This needs to feel different than a coaching conversation. This needs to feel different. And you do that by having a sober, firm, compassionate, resolute process.
This conversation is a hard conversation to have, you may or may not even be the person designated to Have the conversation, perhaps you’re a lead on a team, but it’s the manager who’s going to have this conversation, you still need to understand your role in this, because you might actually see the person violating with that behavior before anybody else. So you still have a role. And often there’s more than one person involved in these conversations. So you might think, Oh, I’m not the manager, or I’m not the, I’m not the boss. So I don’t have to have these conversations.
But if you have some kind of leadership role, or you happen to be in a situation where something happened, you may be called on to be in a conversation. This can be done with grace, with firmness, with compassion, with resolute presence, and at the heart, with the desire for change, unless the person is being terminated. The desire is for change, so that the person can realign, reengage, and unleash their potential in the future, in even better ways. These three conversations are happening at different times in the career of all the people on your teams.
We want most of them to be about nudging and coaching, and corrective conversations to be reserved for very few and far between behaviors that need to be eliminated. And those are hard, they’re just hard. That’s why you need the support of the people around you. And the people who are trained to help you understand the implications, nudging and coaching is your bread and butter, nudging and coaching is your bread and butter as a leader. But these three form a powerful set of interactions and intersections that make the move the bridge from just aligned thinking to an unleashing of behavior in the organization and unleashing of action in the organization that can make the difference in the execution and the outcome of the mission on any given day. Nudge, coach, correct. Take some time today to think about mostly where you can nudge better, where those little moments of nudging are and how you can be more intentional about them. And then check into how your culture thinks about coaching and what kinds of ways you could bring a culture of improvement more to the surface more to a place where people are excited to improve and hungry for coaching. Nudge coach, correct.
This is Dave Fleming at The Ingenuity Lab.
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