Recovering from Resolutions
September can mark the beginning of the new year more significantly than January. As such, we can be unwittingly drawn to “New Year’s Resolutions” that set us up for failure:
- A senior leader received feedback that she occasionally provoked fear in her employees and so pledges never to have that happen again.
- A newly promoted leader set as his coaching goal to always project confidence and competence.
- Members of a department historically caught up in contentious conflict vowed to conduct only respectful, constructive conversations.
All admirable goals. Admirable and probably unattainable. Perfection is unlikely in most spheres of practice; certainly in interpersonal endeavors. To set the bar at “Never” or “Always” is to set oneself up for failure.
More important than overly admirable goals are strategies for recovering quickly and well after the inevitable breakdowns.
Recognizing when you are not achieving your interpersonal goals and exercising recovery strategies will relieve the stress of seeking perfection. It will also have the added benefit of demonstrating to others your genuine commitment to constructive communications.
The first step is cultivating awareness of gaps between your intent and the impact you produce. This awareness comes from exercising Emotional Intelligence - the ability to monitor both your own on-going reactions and those of others.
In the examples above, chances are the employees experiencing fear are telegraphing that reaction, the newly promoted leader knows in his gut when he is not feeling confident or competent, and group members know very well when a conversation has gone awry.
Once you are aware of this gap between intent and impact, your challenge is to stop the action as soon as possible. This can be as simple as sharing your concern that you are not communicating well, or as sophisticated as asking for real time feedback on your effectiveness. Either way, you have stopped the negative momentum and signaled your desire to be more effective.
These recovery skills will help you respond to bumps along your learning journey regardless of the specifics of your admirable goals.