Being triggered isn’t the issue, it’s how we respond that counts.

Rachel Rider
Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant

MettaWorks is a proud team of 5 people. Even at that size, in order to be successful, we need to set clear goals and effectively communicate.

Earlier this year, I was giving feedback to a person on my team, who is no longer on my team. We were revisiting the goals we had previously set. It was one of the more difficult conversations as I had to yet again, make it clear the current performance was not appropriate given our agreed-upon goals.

Instead of acknowledging that her behavior was in direct conflict with the expectations I had been setting for her, she became defensive and accusatory.

5 years ago, I may have responded in one of the following ways.

#1: I would have lost my own voice. I would have lost my conviction. I would have started agreeing with her points and forgot why I felt so strongly that her behavior was inappropriate.

I would have said, “I understand you struggle in this area. Do what you can. I appreciate whatever work you can do. Thanks so much.”

As a result, I would have become less clear on my messaging, more apologetic, and walked away having accommodated her in ways that were inappropriate for the expectations of her role. Only later would I feel regretful, resentful, and frustrated. My team member would walk away thinking she was performing in a satisfactory way.

#2: I would have become angry, defensive, and accusatory myself.

I would have said, “Are you kidding me right now? How dare you make this my fault. I have done so much for you. Every time you ask for flexibility in deliverables, every time you ask for additional support ( should be something you are able to do yourself), I have met your request and then some. And you come to tell me that I’m being unreasonable??”

As a result, I would have escalated the situation. She would feel even more justified in her stance on how her lack of performance is my fault and we would have both walked away with frustration hanging in the air, without having resolved anything.

TODAY, my response looks differently. Today, I acknowledge her perspective, I return to the original expectations we set, I get very clear about how her current performance is in conflict with those expectations.

I now say, “I understand what you are saying and I can hear that you continue to struggle in certain areas to deliver on the goals we set. I want to be clear that we have discussed these goals several times. We have identified issues that may be getting in the way of you meeting your goals and we have solved many of those issues. I am seriously concerned that you are continuing to struggle to meet these goals. This current performance is not in accordance with the goals we set.”

This response can diffuse a highly charged situation. The language depersonalizes the circumstances. The heart of the message is conveyed clearly and alignment happens even in the space of disagreement. As a result, we were able to have a constructive conversation and continue to improve the work product as well as our relationship.

The framework of communication helped me stay centered when I am felt both an inner nagging that maybe I am the one doing something wrong and rage at her own indignation.

During the conversation, I am also self-regulating my emotions. This helps my mind stay clear despite having a strong internal emotional reaction – a topic I will discuss next time!

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Rachel Rider
Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant

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