Bury the Hatchet

The speaker’s message was clearly meant for me. “Don’t bury the hatchet with the handle sticking out.” I was convinced that I had buried the hatchet in a very painful disagreement with a family member, but this advice made me realize that I still knew where the handle was. I hadn’t completely forgiven this person and it would be much too easy to grab that handle and resurrect all those negative emotions.

This concept originated with two Native American chiefs who buried their hatchets when they agreed to end a conflict. Think of all the energy required to constantly butt heads or avoid someone. Better to spend your energy burying the hatchet and the handle. You can start by:

  •  Forgiving – acknowledge both parts in the conflict and commit to forgiving the other person unconditionally.
  •  Identifying what you have in common – a shared goal or a common adversary, perhaps a competitor.
  •  Taking responsibility – “I would really like for us to find a way to work together more effectively. What can I do to make that easier?”
  •  Accepting neutral – turning an enemy into a friend doesn’t happen overnight, but getting them from negative to neutral is a good first step. Just don’t stop there.

I invite you to ask yourself whether you might be holding onto something – would it be better off buried?

Vulnerability Can Be Your Greatest Strength

I’m working with a senior executive who recently joined a new company. He wants to build strong relationships as a foundation for major changes he will be implementing, so I suggested a new leader assimilation process – he would invite his team members to submit anonymous questions on topics such as his strengths, weaknesses, decision-making style, communication preferences, etc. and then answer them in an open forum.

This is a powerful way to demonstrate vulnerability and begin to build trust and engagement. It is also an opportunity to set an example and inspire others to see that vulnerability can be a strength. To my client’s credit, he is willing to admit that he doesn’t have all the answers and to ask his colleagues for support – a big challenge for someone who has always been the go-to guy.

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work whose TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” is the fourth most viewed of all time, says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection.” Once you make that connection, you have a strength you can leverage.

Could You Translate That?

“I’ll get it to you by EOB tomorrow.” Does this statement save time because everyone understands what it means? If I assume that EOB means end of business is 5:00 PM CST and you mean 5:00 PM EST, could that lead to frustration or worse?

Every team and organization has its own language. Take a minute and write down the acronyms or phrases that you use frequently and then rate them – a plus for those that contribute to positive outcomes like inclusion and collaboration and a minus for those that can lead to negative consequences like exclusion or confusion.

Now for the challenge – what needs to change so that your language is an asset? How will you and your teammates make that happen?

Suspending Judgment

In a recent presentation, Avoiding Potholes on the Road to Career Success, I mentioned one of the 20 habits in Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There — Passing Judgment. Goldsmith defines that as rating people according to our standards, which is different from stating an opinion.

This is a hard habit to break in a world focused on celebrities and reality TV. I admit to the guilty pleasure of watching the “pre-game show” on Academy Awards night, which is all about rating what the stars are wearing and judging how they look. When we pass judgment on someone’s appearance, actions or ideas, we assume we know better. No one wants to be judged.

If you need to break this habit, here is a celebrity challenge for you: try to avoid judging any ideas for one week. Stay neutral and just say, “Thanks.” That doesn’t mean you agree or disagree with the idea, only that you heard it. Notice how people react. If you find that suspending judgment leads to more open discussion, keep it up!

Building Trust

What makes you trust someone? Transparency, maintaining confidentiality, delivering on commitments, telling the truth even when it’s difficult – these are some of the qualities of a trustworthy person. With the continual news about public figures abusing the trust of their constituents, fans and families, building an environment of trust is a timely topic for all leaders.

Here are a few fundamentals:

  • Let go – delegate authority and trust your team to handle it responsibly
  • Be honest – give constructive feedback
  • Admit your mistakes – set the example for humility and learning
  • Show that you care – about them as a person, not just an employee
  • Be consistent – so people will know what to expect

Building trust takes time but it is an investment with a significant return. I invite you to consider one thing you might do this month to build trust with a colleague and how that might pay dividends to both of you.

Managing Expectations

I just returned from a weekend in the Colorado Mountains which was a great escape from the dog days of Houston’s summer. One of the activities, a bicycle ride that was billed as mostly downhill, ended up being eight miles of hard pedaling into a strong wind. Good workout but not what I expected – the bike rental guy over-promised and under-delivered. Thankfully, the reward was a burger and a beer!

While under-promising and over-delivering should be the mantra of every salesperson, for corporate leaders who have to manage the expectations of multiple stakeholders, it may be more important to promise and deliver as accurately as possible.

Some people are flexible enough to adjust to unexpected changes easily. Others need advance notice and time to buy into the changes in order to support them. If one of your team members seems resistant to change, consider how well you managed their expectations. Did you tell them it would be a tough journey and give them a chance to ask how best to prepare? Or did you gloss over the challenges and just focus on the reward?

Being aware of how you react to change can help you adjust to others with different needs. If you can take unexpected changes in stride, you will have to work extra hard at being patient with those who can’t. If you are someone who is frustrated by surprises, let others know to give you a heads up whenever possible.

See if you can spot someone this week whose response to change is similar to yours and someone whose style is different.