Scenario: You are attending or conducting a meeting and someone says something that sends you or a team member ballistic.
The natural reaction to this behavior tends to signal that the meeting is off track and little will be accomplished. Naturally, you think that if we could communicate without the anger or emotion we could get a lot more done. Well, you are right. Our normal tendency is to tune out the angry behavior and try to move forward. But, you may wonder, how can you communicate with a team member that is behaving irrationally?
There are probably no “fool-proof” techniques to handle every instance of angry behavior. However, there are a few suggestions that might help if consciously applied. Let’s examine some techniques that a team leader could use to defuse these situations.
Here are four (4) techniques:
Remain Calm – In most cases, neither party may be totally right or wrong. Instead, they may have different information and perceptions about a particular situation that causes the disagreement. Although it may be difficult, try to control your emotions during the exchange. The first action should be to acknowledge the difference of views and continue the discussion. This technique tends to offset the power of the barrage without adding diverging factors that fueled the original outburst.
Adopt a Solution Oriented Approach – Try not to add to or exacerbate the problem. Ask if anyone has ideas for a possible solution to the issue. If they do, list them and discuss the applicability of each. You may also have some ideas that were not previously presented. You can introduce these ideas into the discussion at the appropriate time. If there are some emerging factors, of which the team is unaware, share and explain that information. The new information may help the team to understand current problems and be more receptive to proposed solutions.
Ask for Suggestions – If your team has not met your performance expectations, restate your expectations, agreed upon goals and ask why they were not met. Switch to a problem solving mode and ask for suggestions to improve the performance and meet expectations. The team members will probably have some suggestions or make you aware of some changes that may have occurred elsewhere in the organization that have introduced some important factors that affect performance. Don’t be reluctant to ask the team if you can do anything differently to help them improve their performance.
Resolve to be Firm – Simply stated, sometimes teams just need to “blow off” some steam. As a team leader, you are the easiest target. This makes it even more important to make sure that the issues are discussed thoroughly, everyone has had an opportunity to offer their input or suggestions and you have evaluated those suggestions for their applicability and suitability. Now, you know if they are “blowing off” steam or if there are valid business issues that need to be addressed. Ensure that feedback is specific so you can accurately deal with the factual matters.
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