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So You Want Me to Be Inauthentic?
I was in New York recently to teach Efficacy techniques for managing resistance to leaders, when a woman in the group received an angry text message from one of her teachers. "This is exactly what I'm talking about," she fumed. The text from the teacher was inappropriate, and her immediate reaction was to "set him straight."
Rather than let the situation pass unresolved, I guided her to use the tools they were learning, and together we worked through it as a group. The first step is to manage your own reaction. When confronted by someone who is angry and resisting, people tend to respond in a manner that is not conducive to growth and development—they often react in an equally negative (angry) way.
With her eyebrow raised, she looked at me and said “So you want me to be inauthentic.” Smiling, I reminded her that at no point in this interaction would she have to lie or be fake; she only had to think about her ultimate goal for the conversation and act accordingly.
If her goal was to artfully express disdain and remind the teacher that she was in charge, then she could proceed without making use of the tools. However, if her goal was to lead him to operate from the place within himself devoted to learning, growth, and collaboration—in both this interaction and in future ones—then she would have to first act from that place herself. We call this acting from your "Strong Side."
The administrator decided that she ultimately wanted the latter, so I continued to walk her through the process. The second step is to explore the concern of the other, and figure out what is triggering the resistance. As we continued to think about why the teacher might be responding this way, the administrator determined his real concern.
He was distressed because of a consistent scheduling conflict that had caused him, on multiple occasions, to miss time with a group of students– a major problem for a teacher preparing for the Regents Exam. In fact, the series of customized lessons he had developed on a pacing schedule had been obliterated by the administrative changes.
With a clear view of why he was resisting, she was able to prepare for the final step – appeal to the Strong Sides of everyone on your staff. Working with a small group of leaders from her school, she participated in a role play to practice the conversation she planned to have with the teacher. Since she shared his concern, in fact she was not forced to be inauthentic.
She shared that she too was frustrated by the schedule, but explained that it was unavoidable. She then offered to work with him to figure out a plan so that he could regain the time with his students. When she enacted this conversation in real life, the teacher apologized for the way he had acted, and was appreciative of her support.
Choosing to lead from her Strong Side enabled her to get all the things she needed from this interaction – she effectively managed the teacher's resistance, resolved the conflict, and maintained her respect as a leader. As leaders, when we choose to operate from our Strong Sides, we pave the way for others to do the same.
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