Have you ever had someone else school you with your own playbook? For instance, you are playing a sport or a board game and one of your competitors makes a move that you know darn well yourself and wins the point. You are left thinking: “Darn it! I know that works! Why didn’t I think of that?” You were simply too caught up in the moment to step back and see what needed to be done.
I am the CEO of a decent-sized company, I lead the Board of an amazing non-profit organization, and I am a husband and father. I take all of my roles very seriously and usually know what to do when things get a little tough and people lose their focus.
What can you do to move people away from petty politics, hurt feelings, and insignificant minutiae? What is the magical strategic move? Simple. Just stop and remind people why they are all together in the first place. An example would be if a few of your employees get into a heated disagreement about something and others started taking sides. Passionate debate is happening, but it is getting a little too personal. (Respectful conflict is a good thing, by the way. See “Conflict is good for your team”.)
As the leader, you want to get things back to the big picture and relieve the pressure of the moment. Try saying something like this:
“Before we go any further, let’s remember why we are all here. Let’s all remember that we share the same end goal. We all want the best thing for our customer; we all want our system to make people’s work lives easier. Right?”
Rarely is this type of reminder the wrong thing to do. It almost always gets people into a different mindset and sets the tone for a more productive, respectful conversation.
When I see other people make this move at the right time and place, I am often left thinking: “Nice move! Why didn’t I think of that?” I see great leaders doing this and I resolve to do this more and more.
Of course, what you want people to remember – the “why” – needs to inspire or motivate in the first place. If you can’t come up with something inspirational or motivating, perhaps you should be putting your efforts elsewhere. But if you, like me, are doing things you are passionate about, then share that inspiration every chance you get.