Why Thinking in Win/Lose Absolutes Disconnects You from Others

Connections happen in the gray area. It’s where we overlap with others, where we have the greatest opportunities to connect. It’s when we go to either extreme that we inherently set ourselves up for a disconnect.

Naturally, some people choose to only be connected with those who share their opinions. For them, extremism is intentional. There is a desire not to connect with people who feel differently about a given issue. This blog post is not for people who operate as extremists. That self-limiting choice can’t be adequately addressed in just 500 words.

Rather, this post is intended for people who want to make connections and are willing to seek out common ground as opposed to hunkering down in their own beliefs.

The best leaders have strong opinions but are also willing to understand the opinions of others. They look for the overlap, the gray area, that enables these connections.

When we are polarized, we repel others instead of attracting them to us.

When we are immovable in our position, we can’t connect with others who are also immovable.

When we close ourselves off with a defensive position or one that is restrictive, we miss out on connections because we don’t invite others in. By not attempting to understand others, we discourage them from trying to understand us, too.

When we adopt a very narrow view, we make it difficult to connect with others. Our narrow view limits the pathway to us and from us.

Leaders who open themselves up to others make the best use of the gray area possible. They get informed. They establish credibility because they are not extremists. They bring others along with them simply by being reasonable and interested enough to dignify others.

To be a leader, you must have followers. If the only followers you allow are those who already believe the same way you do, you’re going to miss out. It’s impossible to be absolutely right all the time. Being extreme in your point of view dooms you to miss out on others’ contributions and ideas.

When you find yourself talking in absolutes, push yourself to go more toward the middle. You don’t have to stay there or change what you believe automatically. This isn’t about being wishy-washy. Instead, it’s about being inclusive and informed.

By connecting with others instead of trying to win every argument, you will end up winning wars instead of battles.

 CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThis blog post is part of the CONNECT! Community’s November focus on connecting with others. As a leader, you will be able to CONNECT2Lead authentically and effectively when you are able to establish and sustain meaningful workplace relationships with others. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.

 

The Truth about Why We Don’t Listen

Sure, every leader knows we’re supposed to actively listen to each other in the workplace.

Leaders understand that actively listening is a desirable skill. But in a popular CONNECT2Lead webinar workshop, we elicit these honest answers from leaders about the reasons why they don’t do a better job of listening.

If you’re honest with yourself, some of these reasons will be your own, too.

- I don’t know how to listen.

- I just do what others do when it comes to listening.

- I’m distracted.

- I don’t have time to listen.

- I don’t want to listen.

You’re not alone in feeling this way about listening. Admitting that these reasons are why you aren’t actively listening to others is the first step.

You know the next step. It’s overcoming these excuses and making a genuine commitment to really, truly listen to other people.

Think of it this way: you would not make these excuses if you were the person expected to do the speaking. You wouldn’t dare give yourself a free pass on making a presentation if you didn’t know how, lapsed into bad behaviors exhibited by others who were presenting, made a presentation while you were distracted, said you didn’t have time to make a presentation, or skipped it because you just didn’t want to do it.

We know we are front and center and that others are paying attention when we present. We forget that the same is true, as leaders, when we are supposed to be listening.


More than you are judged for your presentations, you are judged for the way you listen. So step it up, work through these excuses, and set a higher standard for the way you listen. You will be more effective as a leader when you do.
CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThis blog post is part of the CONNECT! Community’s November focus on connecting with others. As a leader, you will be able to CONNECT2Lead authentically and effectively when you are able to establish and sustain meaningful workplace relationships with others. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.

The Fastest Way to Lose an Ally

An alliance is defined as a merging of efforts or interests. We all rely on a wide variety of alliances in the workplace. “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” is an undeniable undercurrent and unwritten understanding that crosses all levels of the org chart.

Despite the preponderance and importance of alliances, they are often broken. Sometimes, this happens accidentally. The alliance itself becomes a casualty of one party’s self-interest. Since there are no formal agreements regarding workplace alliances, they are easy to break.

Some alliances ought to be temporary and narrowly focused on one area of mutual interest or effort. These should be set forth with a common understanding of which interests and efforts are to be merged and for how long.

Others, though, are perceived by at least one party as being longer term. They form because there is a great deal of support needed by each party. Co-workers, for example, look to each other as allies would. They join together to support one another. There is an unspoken expectation that this is to be an enduring alliance.

Here’s the problem. No one ever formally commits to an alliance. We keep our options open and form a variety of alliances which, sometimes, have competing interests. We navigate through these with varying degrees of finesse and may not even realize the impact of our actions on our allies.

The result of these casual and cavalier attitudes is that we accidentally alienate allies. We don’t intend to, and we often don’t even realize what has happened. Instead, we’re left to wonder why we aren’t getting the same level of support we’ve come to expect.

As an executive coach, I’ve seen this happen over and over again. People tell me that they have no idea what happened to strain a relationship. But when they get confidential feedback or ask directly, former allies recount times when they, first, felt abandoned or betrayed.

Here’s a classic example. A supply chain team relies heavily on each other for timely handoffs. In order to hit volume, on-time delivery and customer satisfaction goals, the sales team is dependent on key personnel and decisions made along the supply chain. However, one sales team member has an urgent issue and decided to leapfrog her peers and escalate an issue that could have been handled directly. This caused former allies on the supply chain to feel betrayed by the sales team member who did not interact with them directly (and got them a “talking to” by management).

You know how this ends. Not one week later, the same sales team member missed an order deadline. She went to her former allies, just as she had in the past, to request special dispensation on that deadline. Still stinging from what they perceived as a break in the alliance, the others along the supply chain who could have granted the deadline extension chose not to.

This type of scenario unfolds daily in the workplace. The fastest way to lose an ally is to betray an ally. Even small betrayals cause others to feel used and abused. No one has a desire to support someone who has proven to be unsupportive.

Since we don’t think in these terms, leaders may not even know who their true allies are. They may not fully realize who is thinking of them in these terms either. The only way to protect informal alliances is to consider others’ points of view when deciding on workplace actions. What will the impact be on others when you take action (or don’t take action)? What is the value of being considerate of what others need, want or expect from you? How can you become more conscientious about how your actions will affect others’ performance in their work and their perception about you?

Act like an ally. Don’t take allies for granted. Be prepared to scratch others’ backs, and be cautious when you act in a way that could have a negative impact on those you rely upon in merged interests or efforts.        

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smal This blog post is part of the CONNECT! Community’s November focus on connecting with others. As a leader, you will be able to CONNECT2Lead authentically and effectively when you are able to establish and sustain meaningful workplace relationships with others. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.

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