LeaderShift Project Articles

As we approach the end of 2022, most business leaders are shifting their focus to year-end responsibilities, such as delivering reviews, announcing promotions, and repositioning team or organizational roles. 

It’s fun and rewarding to share good news, but it can be hard to communicate and manage disappointing news or potentially unsettling changes announced this time of year.

There are generally three choices for dealing with the “elephant in the room”: 

  1. Choose to ignore them
  2. Dance around them
  3. Address them in an open, direct, and constructive way

I will always recommend the last approach, accompanied by a manager-as-coach mindset.

Leaders can coach their people through difficult situations by following the four Ps: Process, Probing, Perspectives, and Planning.

The 4 Ps

Process. Encourage your people to process setbacks rather than bottling them up. Emotions are energy in motion, so it’s not healthy to ignore disappointments. Emotion must be processed; otherwise, it gets stored in our bodies in such forms as tight shoulders or chronic back pain.

While you may certainly offer to be a sounding board, most people process unsettling circumstances best in an environment outside of the office, for example, at home or in the gym. Give them the space and time they need, within reason.

Probing. We learn so much more from our frustrations and failures than we do from our successes. When someone has processed the disappointment, help him/her find the valuable gems they can mine from it. The only real failure in any setback is to learn nothing from it and cease to grow.

Ask some probing questions in order to prompt meaningful self-reflection, such as:

  • What do you know you do well that you want to keep doing or do more of?
  • With the benefit of hindsight, what could you have done differently to realize more of what you wanted?
  • How might you approach a similar situation in the future?
  • Imagine you’re recounting this experience five years from now. What do you think you’d tell people that you learned?

Perspectives. A complementary approach is to help them consider the experience from a different perspective. Human nature is to create stories to fill in the gaps when we don’t know the full truth about what happened. 

Sadly, the stories we tend to make up are often negative, self-critical, discouraging, defensive or all of the above. We can choose to adopt any mindset we want, so why not adopt one that’s constructive and propels us forward? It’s not delusional, but realistic.

Perhaps it was a dress rehearsal for an even better opportunity? Or maybe it wasn’t the opportunity it appeared to be on the surface. Was it a much-needed wakeup call to reevaluate what you really want? What might be better about the new situation? What decision might you have made in management’s shoes?

Planning. Your people will now be able to plan next steps and revise their goals with some emotional catharsis, honest reflections, and constructive perspectives. We can’t change the past, but we can control the decisions we make and the actions we take moving forward. 

There are a variety of effective processes leaders use to help people think through ideas and get into action, and the key is to keep it simple, collaborative, and S.M.A.R.T. (guidance ensuring that objectives are “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound” objectives – developed by George T. Doran).

Coaching is more important than ever

Change and disappointments are inevitable, but a good coach can help teams embrace it and use it as an opportunity for growth.

Utilizing this four-step approach to engage with employees affected by setbacks or unwelcome changes will not only boost their well-being, self-awareness, and productivity, but it will also increase accountability for finding success. 

Furthermore, the process positions leaders to move swiftly to the other undertaking that naturally springs from the year’s end: tackling those largely looming objectives for next year! 

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