Over the past few months, I have been spending quite a bit of time working with leaders on ways to improve their overall team dynamics. Some of the specific topics we have discussed link to accountability, communication, trust, and decision making with staff. An underlying theme with these discussions has been that we need to be more intentional with our teams.
Many of the leadership development topics discussed seem easy to understand, yet putting those ideas into practice seem to be the challenge. I go back to Emotional Intelligence and the 4 primary quadrants:
When talking to others about what goes into Emotional Intelligence, I feel the most important element is moving from the "What I see" to "What I do."
Having a discussion around what we should do is easy. I give you a question or a scenario and you give me an answer. In our minds, the solution and way we handle that question or scenario is easy to develop. However, putting that solution into practice is where I see many people become stuck...heck, even I do this. There are situations I experience as a leader where I know what the 'right' thing to do is...however, when it comes to doing it, I allow the APE's to get in the way.
What are the APE's?
A = Assumptions / These are the things we believe to be true.
P = Perceptions / We gain our perspectives from experience. If something is good, we tend to respond positively. When something is bad, we tend to avoid the experience.
E = Expectations / Expectations are just that - things we expect.
While the concept of the APE's is not new, I feel they need to be given more attention. I believe we allow the APE's to impact us negatively when we should be using them to positively influence our behaviors.
Here is an example: Say I have an employee that is showing up late on a regular basis. They don't communicate with me when they are late and I have even observed them leaving a few minutes early on some of these days where they arrive late.
If I allow the APE's to manage my thinking, here is what I may act on:
Assumption: They don't respect me and they think they can come in late whenever they want. It's obvious they don't care about the rest of the team. If they did, they would be here on time.
Perception: This is what they always do. Ever since we hired this last group of new hires, this has been happening. I have a friend who knows someone that said it was a generation thing. This must be because they are a millennial.
Expectation: They need to be here on time and they need to work until the end of their shift. Or, they need to come and talk to me if something is preventing them from being here on time.
Now, I hope you read into the sarcasm...but, in my experience, this is not far off from the truth many times. If we want to prevent the APE's from running our behaviors, then we need to be more intentional. Here is what I mean:
- Employee shows up late: I need to talk to them right away. Not yell...but talk. If you approach the situation by yelling, then you have already allowed the APE's to rule.
- When talking with that employee, you need to share your perception with them. Make sure they see what you are seeing and be open to hearing their perspective. Again, if you approach it and say, "This is what I am seeing - so you need to knock it off!" You have already allowed the APE's to rule.
- When talking with the employee, make sure they know what the expectations are. Yes, there are work rules and other policies. But, if you have specific expectations for your team, you need to tell them.
Bringing the emotional intelligence back into this - when dealing with this same situation, I may know that I need to talk to the employee (Social Awareness). However, if I come up with an excuse to not say anything and continue to let the behavior go on, then I am choosing to not manage my relationships or myself.
Be intentional: As a leader, co-worker, spouse, friend, whatever.....be intentional. This isn't even about being willing to put yourself out there.... it’s actually about putting yourself into the situation. Many would agree that we respect and trust those that are willing to do something that has a negative impact on a team. Additionally, we respect those that are willing to challenge their perceptions and assumptions to ensure the team and/or relationship is effective.
I feel we have a choice in how we manage and interact within our relationships (personal or professional). If we would be willing to check our APE's and be intentional with those we are connected to, I believe we will see stronger foundations built for those in our circle.