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January 29, 2014 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa | A Damaged Working Relationship

Jamie asks:  My colleague and I had a disagreement over the future of our project.  She thought we should cut our losses now, while I thought we could still grow a customer base in a specific territory.  Before I knew it, tensions escalated based on assumptions I made about her commitment to the project.  We still haven’t decided what direction to take this project and now we aren’t interacting as well as we used to.  I’d like to address the situation.  Have any advice?  

Tawny Lees, COO or Mariposa, responds:

As you know, in business, decisions and actions ought to be based on reality and facts.  It sounds though as if the situation escalated because you may have jumped to conclusions, rather than keep the discussion focused at the facts level.

One mental model you can use next time you encounter a disagreement is the Ladder of Inference.  The ladder describes thinking steps that lead one to jump to inaccurate conclusions, where decisions and actions are made far from reality.  The ladder looks like this:

ladder of inference_smallImagine at the base of a ladder lie reality and facts.  As we head up the rungs of the ladder, we select data from the set of facts to add meaning based on our own prior experience and beliefs, make assumptions, draw conclusions, develop beliefs based on these conclusions, then finally, take action that seems “right” (because it’s based on what we believe.)  As you can see, beliefs drive what information we choose to see, which may or may not be based on reality!   And acting on assumptions can lead to damaged relationships.

In your next discussion, we suggest getting into rapport with her by matching your body language, voice and words with hers.  This will help level-set any uneasiness you both might be feeling.  Then, describe the thinking process of the Ladder of Inference, and let her know where you were “on the ladder” in your last discussion.  Revisit the project facts from there.  You’ll be able to move to decision when you’re both focused on the reality of your project!  Good luck!

For more information on the Ladder of Inference, read Overcoming Organizational Defenses by Chris Argyris, Allyn and Bacon, 1990.

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September 5, 2013 / Coaching Skills

Learn the Skills of “Assess” for Effective Leadership Team Development

Developing your leadership team is best done through effective and frequent coaching. We recently shared two ways rapport benefits leadership team development through coaching.  And establishing rapport is the critical first step in our In-The-Moment Coaching model.   So what happens next?

Understand the problem that needs solving.  This occurs in the “Assess” step in our In-The-Moment (ITM) Coaching model.  Here are three reasons leaders who learn the skills of Assess are highly effective at leadership team development through ITM Coaching.

  • They understand they aren’t on point to solve the problem.  Assess is exploring another person’s perspective on a situation in order to understand the current frame and uncovering the most important problem that needs solving right now.  Once it’s uncovered, the leader’s job is to help him/her arrive at a solution to address it.  This is “teaching others to fish,” which boosts the level of motivation, accountability, and engagement in taking action.
  • They open up thinking with strategic questions.  The key to successfully assess is through the use of open-ended questions.  Leaders who allow open-ended questions to emerge from a place of curiosity rather than a defined set of questions receive more information that helps them set the problem.
  • They pick up on nuances by staying present.  In Assess, the leader’s job is not only to ask questions and listen, but to notice how the situation is being described, the other person’s reaction to it and motivations.   Specifically, they are listening for specific word usage that implies constraints on thinking and views on others.  By staying present in the conversation, leaders are able to pick up on these cues, ask the right questions and quickly set the most important problem that needs solving.

Successful leadership team development through ITM Coaching relies on learning how to stay in Assess versus solving others’ problems for them. For more tips to help you do this and other how-to’s on ITM Coaching, download the free Executive Guide to In-The-Moment Coaching.

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August 30, 2013 / Coaching Skills

Two Ways Rapport Benefits Leadership Team Development

Want to get more from your leadership team? Then coaching effectively and often, especially with our In-The-Moment Coaching model, is an indispensable skill for you. Establishing rapport is a critical component to building relationships with others and it is a prerequisite for a successful coaching conversation.

Here are two ways rapport benefits coaching and thus leadership team development:

  • It creates trust and safetyRapport connects through “sameness” in language, tone and behavior, thus calming the mind.  Match your body language, voice quality, words and sense of urgency with that of another to establish this “sameness.” Strong differences in behaviors and speech can elicit a fight, flight or freeze response – not what you are looking for.  Instead, matching cultivates trust and safety so the mind is primed to explore ideas and solutions.
  • It requires your presence.  You have no shortage of distractions:  text messages, emails, people queuing up at your desk.  To further cultivate trust and safety, you must clear those distractions – such as silencing/closing your device or moving to a non-distracting locationin order to be fully present in the conversation.  Once established, maintain rapport in coaching (or any) conversations to maintain trust and safety, allowing the mind of your team member to open up to new possibilities.

Rapport is the critical first step you must master in a leadership team development skill like coaching.  For further tips on establishing rapport and other how-to’s on In-The-Moment Coaching, download the free Executive Guide to In-The-Moment Coaching

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