I just had one of these meetings. Maybe you know what I’m talking about — the main topic seemed to be how hopeless the situation is, what is hindering us and how we can’t possibly do anything to change the situation. While it doesn’t help to be problem phobic and close your eyes when faced with a big challenge, staring the problem in the face like a deer in the headlights will catch you and your team and maybe your whole organization in analysis paralysis. Blame storming then replaces brainstorming! We know from the research of Barbara Fredrickson, that when we are stressed and in fight or flight mode, our creative and problem solving solution finding capacities are greatly impaired. So, all in all – not a good state to be in!
So how do you get your team to move from estate of analysis paralysis into a state of agency and solution finding?
It is not an easy fix and requires some persistence, but it can be done. In my experience, the trick is to create the right balance between acknowledging that there is a problem and starting to talk about what people envision as a solution. If you start talking about solutions or even say things like let’s not concentrate on the problem here, let’s move forward, too quickly, you will antagonize people and the more you insist the more they will resist your well-intentioned attempts to turn the conversation into something more positive. So here is a way for turning conversations around:
Of course, blaming “top management”, another department or anyone for the current problems rarely helps. However, directly disagreeing with people on their assessment of the “guilty” party, usually leads to discussions and “yes, but” games intensifying the unhelpful antagonsim e.g.:
You don’t want to agree with the blamestorming, as it is the exact opposite of the culture that you want – so you can say: “Yes, I understand that we are having trouble with the current situation” (without blaming anyone). Or “Yes, it is hard” and then turn the conversation around with:
The most important thing is not to enter into any kind of “Yes, but” games and to listen closely for agency and wishes hidden in complaints. Each “but” is an invitation to listen more carefully for what the other person really wants.
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