Recently I had the pleasure of joining my two sons for a skate on the ice at our local arena. As much as I love this time together, it has become apparent that my eight year old, currently in his second year of hockey (yes we are Canadian!), can skate just as well, if not better, than I.
You see, when I was younger I only took skating lessons for two years before deciding (to my mother’s frustration) that I no longer wanted to skate. This was a decision that I now sincerely regret, and with few options for improving my skill at my age, it’s quite possible now that I’m doomed to a life of embarrassment while on the ice with my boys…
It is these decisions made in haste (often accompanied by emotion) that we often later regret; decisions made under pressure, in the heat of the moment, or when faced with a challenging situation. I find these are often the circumstances under which many executives and leaders make hasty decisions they later regret. Faced with mounting pressures that they believe their employees don’t or can’t comprehend, they respond abruptly, or worse yet not at all, to employee questions or concerns. In these moments their thoughts often turn to reflecting on how out-of-touch the employee is with the reality of the situation.
Have you ever had these thoughts or feelings?
Have you ever been faced with requests from employees that seem miniscule or inconsequential?
Have you ever thought, really? This is what they think is important right now?
Have you been thrust into resolving a conflict between employees that is based on what you perceive to be nothing of importance?
When faced with these circumstances, our response is often speed and decisiveness. The problem is, we give ourselves little time to reflect on the situation at hand, its relevance to those involved, and the potential repercussions of our involvement.
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We need to slow down our responses, or as I call it, set the pace.
Consider that at this very moment you are likely facing at least one of the following situations:
You’re concerned about losing a customer.
You have an employee issue that you need to address.
A supplier or contractor is causing problems with your product or service.
How will these situations influence your demeanor, personality, and response when asked questions by others? Are you able to hide the stress or anxiety these situations play on your emotions?
In addition, I’ve found that these issues tend to stack one on top of the other, further amplifying feelings of stress and tension, which release when we are faced with something that is comparatively irrelevant.
Leadership is, in effect, supporting and developing others. We need to recognize that building the skill of setting the pace, and slowing down our response to our employees and others, provides us time to think. Time to think allows us to reflect on the situation at hand, creating linkages and connections that might otherwise not be readily apparent.
Here is an approach that has worked for several of my advisory clients. Try this and send me an email to let me know how it works for you:
1. When an employee brings you an issue or concern, count to three slowly and then ask the person to paraphrase the point for you again, “Just so you’re clear.”
2. Respond by first asking the employee what he or she suggests you do. Once you have a response (with an answer or not), tell the employee that you need to give some thought to their concern, and you’d like to reconnect later in the day or within the hour.
3. Don’t respond in the moment, but instead circle back to the employee later in the day once you have had a chance to reflect on the situation and the response.
** Notice I did not tell you to take time to actually think this through, but rather get the employee to first reflect on the situation, allowing them to pose a solution for you. Also, once the problem is clear in your mind your subconscious will do the analysis for you, so that when the time comes, you will have a better response.
As a leader, don’t believe for a moment that it is your responsibility to have all of the answers. It’s not. Your only responsibility is to avoid shooting from the hip with responses to things that employees deem important, and by following the approach above you will not only build greater confidence in your people, but also you will avoid the embarrassment of making a rash decision that you will later regret.
© Shawn Casemore 2017. All rights reserved.