Why good leaders agitate!

One of the greatest ‘balancing acts’ we face as leaders or managers of people is the balance between making (pushing or forcing) someone to do what you need them to do, and stepping back to allow and ‘trust’ them to achieve with their own devices and motivation which, unfortunately, sometimes never kicks in!

I think the pendulum swings here between a place of irritation and abdication…

There is nothing more annoying than the irritation of having someone on your back about something that you don’t want to do… or have not bought into…. or don’t know how to do… or that simply highlights that you haven’t done what you are supposed to do!

The polar opposite to irritation is abdication.  It can also be demotivating to not be provided any support to achieve, or to be left to your own devices entirely. We are tribal beings after all, and at some level, all of us desire some form of collaboration and belonging – it’s a very strong motivational driver.

In the middle of these two sits agitation:  that skilful conversation that challenges just enough to motivate self-reflection, useful thinking and forward action, but not in a way that causes the brain to perceive ’threat’.  Daniel Pink, in his most recent work ‘To Sell is Human’ cautions his readers to be aware of irritation – of not being mindful enough to know when your approach is inadvertently mentally shutting your customer or colleague down.

Agitation is a fine balance that requires powerful and strategic questioning and is a skill that leaders need to, and can, learn and embrace.

I’d love to help you and your team to get really skilled and capitalise on the power of understand useful agitation, but in the meantime, here are four steps to get you started!

  1.  Firstly, take some to establish the business or situational requirements and to understand everybody’s connection to that – what is their motivation or driver? What is in it for them?
  1.  Then be patient enough to unpack their wiring, to truly understand their goal, their concerns.  In Stephen Covey’s words – ‘seek to understand not to be understood’!
  1.  It is important, then, to engage in powerful conversation that supports them to create ideas and options that are theirs, that they can own and be motivated by.
  1.  And finally, support them to choose a path and to take action.

This sounds easy, and conceptually it is, but of course not all that easy to put into practice. BUT the ROI of taking the time to gently agitate rather then irritate will be worth it!

I really appreciate you reading my post and if you enjoyed it you might like to download my Insights Paper on how to have BETTER Conversations.



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