Our dog was growling at something in the living room, it startled me at first because I've never really heard him growl. Upon further investigation, I realized the focus of his fear was a crumpled-up blanket in the chair. Clearly, he's not guard dog material, but the whole scenario made me think of how often we as humans, as leaders, react to things, feel threatened, think the worst and waste a lot of time before finding out if there's even a real problem.
Scenario 1: You send an email requesting something of a team member or peer, their response is short and to the point. You read the email several times and don't understand why your coworker is so upset over this. You stew about it, ask another coworker their opinion. Stop. What's wrong with this picture, besides lost productivity? Could you have misinterpreted the email? Did you pick up the phone or have a face to face conversation with this coworker to talk through the situation, to clarify? If you had, chances are, that person is not upset, he just didn't think through how he phrased his response.
Scenario 2: You're assigned a project and tackle it head on, you complete the project ahead of schedule and are proud to present it to your leaders. You quickly find out the project you poured everything into the past 4 weeks doesn't work how the client needs it to or isn't what your leader wanted, and you need to start over. Now you're angry over time wasted and wonder why they didn't tell you more information before starting the project. Stop. What's wrong with this picture? What's your responsibility in this project? Did you ask enough questions to fully understand the scope of work before starting the project? Would it have helped to update your leader on progress at any point during your work? It comes down to communication, even though the leader's goal is to set you up for success, it's our own responsibility to communicate more openly instead of assuming we know what they wanted.
Scenario 3: A peer remarks about your way of doing something and has a better idea of how it can be done. It's easy to take things personally, no matter what your role, and for some that triggers a shutdown, I'm offended and caught off guard, so I retreat to the safety of my workspace. Stop. What's wrong with this picture? Yes, there are times someone criticizes instead of offering more constructive feedback, but you must ask yourself if you are open to feedback. Are you open to improving, looking at a different way of doing things, or at least discussing the idea? Is your co-worker or leader just trying to help? When you're giving feedback, always be aware of how you come across. When you are receiving feedback, try and keep an open mind, because most of the time someone is simply trying to help.
If you find yourself growling at what you "think" is a threat, be intentional and ask yourself a few simple questions:
- Am I overreacting?
- Would a simple face to face conversation resolve this?
- How is MY communication? Do I fully understand what's expected of me?
- Am I open to constructive feedback?
Simple questions that not only save you time and help you improve yourself, but questions that will help you quickly realize, most of your perceived threats are truly just crumpled up blankets on a chair.