Is Your Work Culture in Discord or Harmony?
Two things you’ll see when the story gets out (1:10)
Case study: Identifying the facts and letting go of the story (4:00)
Two simple ways to identify the truth (7:55)
Your turn: What do you see in your work culture? (11:55)
IS YOUR WORK CULTURE IN DISCORD OR HARMONY?
One of the foundational components of Navigating Challenging Dialogue® is to first establish “What is the truth?” in any given situation.
When people tell me about a conversation they know they must have, but they’re hesitant and resistant to do so, and then they keep avoiding it, I know it’s because of the stories they’re creating in their head about the dialogue. The longer they resist having the dialogue, the bigger and bigger their stories get.
TWO THINGS YOU’LL SEE WHEN THE STORY GETS OUT
When I do a spot-coaching session around a dialogue that somebody must have, but they’re hesitant to move forward on, I ask them to tell me the whole story of the situation – and man, oh man, do they go on and on. As they tell it, I scribe out the whole thing on a big flip chart or whiteboard, so they can see how big their story has become.
They also see that the majority of their story is emotional. The story is comprised of fear, angst, “what ifs,” and “they shoulds” – all of that is the resonance inside of them which creates the discord.
And the discord is what fosters anger, resentment, confusion, chaos, and unhealthy conflict. It’s incredibly hard to recognize all this is happening because 90% of it happens in our minds and doesn’t see the light of day.
This discord is what keeps us up at night. It’s what makes us toss and turn in our sleep while we play the scenario of having the dialogue over and over again instead of taking action on having the dialogue when we’re awake.
What’s taught in Navigating Challenging Dialogue (NCD) is how to break out those emotional stories, so you are simply dealing with the truth. The truth becomes the bridge that helps us be in harmony with others, even in the toughest emotional dialogues.
Someone who recently completed the NCD Skills Training told me that, since learning this process, he no longer lies awake at night, tossing and turning about the tough conversations he has to have the next day. He simply identifies the truth, tosses out the emotional story, and then continues on with NCD’s 6-step process for preparing for and engaging in challenging dialogue.
Today I’m going to share the first steps to identifying the truth (or the facts), so you can be in harmony with yourself – and have the best chance of being in harmony with others – as you engage in those emotionally challenging, tough conversations that you have to have.
CASE STUDY: IDENTIFYING THE FACTS AND LETTING GO OF THE STORY
When you are swirling around in the emotional story about the truth of a situation, you can feel that in your body. It feels heavy; it feels like resistance. That energy gets manifested as tension, anxiety, fear, or resistance – and it only increases how long you delay having the dialogue and how long you stay in that emotional swirl.
A great example of this came up recently in a leadership coaching session I was having with the chief executive officer for a large corporation. She needed to have a tough dialogue with a really valuable team member who had dropped the ball in a very significant way. His misstep was likely to cost the organization a very large contract, and it wasn’t the first time he’d missed a deadline on something at this level of importance.
When she and I began the first steps of Navigating Challenging Dialogue’s 6-step process, she told me a very emotional and incredibly long story. It was full of thoughts about how he has the experience and credentials in the technical aspects of the work the organization does, and so who is she – with her MBA in Business Administration and Organizational Development – to have this kind of dialogue with him?
Holding her back from doing her job was the fear that she was somehow “less than,” and he was going to throw that in her face as a rebuttal when she held him accountable for doing what was required for his job.
And when she kept asking that question: “Who am I to have this dialogue with him? Who am I…?” the answer was pretty clear – she’s his boss! She’s responsible for the good of the whole for the organization. It’s her job.
As this fear was brought out into the light of day, she could easily see how her fear was not the truth. It was almost laughable, had it not been holding her back for several weeks.
The additional challenge here is that there were other people in the organization who knew about this significant error and the impact it was having on the organization, so in addition to his not being held accountable for this, other people were wasting time speculating, questioning, and discussing why he hadn’t been called on it. It had become the elephant in the room.
You see, it’s the emotional stories we create – and which reflect the parts of ourselves we are insecure about – that hold us back from speaking our truth. The process of identifying what the truth is, or what the facts are, of any situation requires us to examine these often unspoken emotional stories.
TWO SIMPLE WAYS TO IDENTIFY THE TRUTH
What differentiates the Navigating Challenging Dialogue 6-step process from all other tough conversation trainings is that we deal with what’s happening within you before a word is ever spoken or action is ever taken. We very intentionally shine a light onto the unspoken thoughts, fears, assumptions, and emotions that block you from moving forward with tough conversations that you have to have.
So yes, you’re probably thinking, and lots of people ask me, “Hey Beth, how do I sort out the truth?” There are two ways—
First, think of the truth as an image you would see if you took a photograph of a specific moment in time. The truth ‘snapshot’ for that CEO would be: “Hey, you did not complete the application by the deadline. That action caused us to miss the deadline and be ineligible for consideration, and this behavior put the organization at financial risk.”
Pretty simple, right? And it feels a lot different in the body than the whole big emotional story that gets created around “Who am I to have this dialogue?”
The second way is to notice how that truth feels in your body versus the big emotional story. Generally, the big emotional story feels heavy; it feels like resistance. It weighs us down and keeps us from moving forward, while the truth feels pretty manageable; it’s almost freeing.
My client was able to have the conversation she’d been resisting for so long. She was able to step into it from the place of speaking her truth with empathy and compassion, self-awareness around her own thoughts and emotional story, and a focus on the good of the whole.
Their dialogue was healthy, and it held space for him to make decisions about shifts in his behavior, and it had a positive outcome for the entire organization. And her fear of him questioning her authority to have this dialogue with him when she didn’t have the same credentials he did? It never came up!
But if it had, she was prepared to handle it, because the Navigating Challenging Dialogue process teaches us how to ground ourselves and bring the conversation back to the facts.
When people are trained and skillful in speaking their truth based on facts, it becomes natural and easy to set the heavy emotional stories aside, and this develops a culture of harmony.
But when people remain stuck in the swirl of their unspoken stories, and they are resistant to speaking their truth, the culture becomes heavy, and discord is created instead of collaboration, teamwork, and authenticity.
So I’m going to ask you to take a look around you: What do you see in your work culture?
Are there dialogues that need to happen but aren’t?
Is there resistance that is fostering discord?
Are there things you want to be able to dialogue about but don’t know how, and they keep you awake at night?
If any of these are true, I invite you to use the two steps that I shared above: 1) identify the facts, and 2) let go of the emotional story … and proceed from there.
And if you’d like to delve deeper into this work and learn more about Navigating Challenging Dialogue’s 6-step process and how it’s changing organizational culture around the country, then click here to learn how you, too, can become an integral part of this culture-shifting movement » Navigating Challenging Dialogue Skills Training and Leadership Certification Workshops.