26. Mediating Co-Worker Conflict + Why Compassion Usually Wins

Episode 26: Mediating Co-Worker Conflict + Why Compassion Usually Wins (Summary)

What’s a boss to do when two members of a team just can’t get along? Plus, using compassion to break the cycle of discipline and punishment with difficult employees…and 4-year-olds. We’re starting now, on Boss Better Now.

Links:
To learn more about Joe Mull, visit his website ​Joemull.com​.
To hear more from Joe Mull visit his YouTube channel​.
To learn how to invite Joe to speak at an event, visit ​Joemull.com/speaking​.
To check date availability or to get a quote for an event, email ​hello@joemull.com​.
To explore options for coaching from Alyssa Mullet, visit ​Joemull.com/coaching​.
For more information on the BossBetter Leadership Academy, visit Joemull.com/academy.
Email the show at bossbetternow@gmail.com.
To leave comments, ask questions, or to message us visit our Boss Better Now Podcast Facebook Page.
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Transcript – Episode 26: Mediating Co-Worker Conflict + Why Compassion Usually Wins

Joe:
What’s a boss to do when two members of a team just can’t get along. Plus, using compassion to break the cycle of discipline and punishment with difficult employees and four-year-olds. We’re starting now on Boss Better Now.

Alyssa:
You’re listening to Boss Better Now. Please welcome, speaker, author, and acrophobe, Joe Mull. Did I say that right?

Joe:
You did. Do you know what it means?

Alyssa:
I Googled it.

Joe:
You looked it up?

Alyssa:
Before we started… Before, we started recording. I was like, okay. I think it has to do with this, but let me not be a complete nincompoop and Google it. So, I …I’m assuming it’s, uh, surrounding the whole heights thing.

Joe:
Yes. It’s fear of heights.

Alyssa:
Right?

Joe:
Yes.

Alyssa:
Okay ’cause I should know that. Because, I too, share that fear.

Joe:
And it’s funny cause you hear acrophobe and you think… is it a fear of acrobats? That sounds like it would make more sense, but the phobia words never seem to like properly line up with the things that they’re afraid of. Like, I don’t know the name of many phobias, but for some reason, there’s one that’s always stuck in my head – triskaidekaphobia. You know what that is? It’s fear of the number 13.

Alyssa:
Fear of Triscuits?

Joe:
Right? You would think it’s fear of Triscuits. Thank you. But no, it’s fear of the number 13.

Alyssa:
Okay. Okay.

Joe:
Now you know.

Alyssa:
Weird.

Joe:
Yeah.

Alyssa:
Okay.

Joe:
Well, hey, we are back at it today, BossHeroes. So welcome to the show that teaches about phobias, as well as, also aspiring to be food for the boss’s soul. If you have a soul, of course. I’m thinking about some supervisors I had back in the day… and that’s not something that every boss can claim. I’m going to go out on a limb though and suggest that if you’re listening to a podcast like this, you probably don’t fall into that group. Joining me once again, my dear friend and executive coach, Alyssa Mullet. Hello hello.

Alyssa:
Yes. I think it’s safe to say that all of our listeners have souls and probably pretty darn-tootin’ good ones. You know, I too have suffered the crisis of conscience of did I lose my soul? Have I sold it to this, that, or the other thing? And so, it is important to ask yourself these questions and it’s…

Joe:
Absolutely. And if you get one of those…

Alyssa:
And it has nothing to do with fear. Right?

Joe:
Right, right. And if you get one of those early in your career, you’re like, am I the problem? And you don’t know. Like, you don’t know that the boss is bad compared to other bosses that you’ve had. You’re just like… this isn’t working… and I’ll just keep changing myself and try to make it work. And then after you get a few years under your belt, and maybe a couple few different bosses, I think you go, nope, this ain’t me. I’m not the problem.

Alyssa:
Yeah. You don’t have any context. You have no ability to compare and contrast outside of maybe your friends’ zone, you know, your social circles, to say, this is what my boss does. Does your boss do this? You know? And so, there’s the ability to contrast that way, but really to be able to have any kind of, uh, “context of character” is difficult. And this seems to me like, uh, something that, um, I thought of just the other day, whenever, uh, one of the moms’ groups on Facebook was talking about how to help their child through X, Y, Z situation, right?

Joe:
Yeah.

Alyssa:
There is no, uh, parenting lesson really, um, that is available to us, I think, to prepare us for when you have really bad bosses. Like here’s what you do, son/daughter, when someone treats you like this. Right? I think it’s the ability to maybe make that, um, tangible to kids, you know, through the context of other relationships. But we generally don’t even think of a boss as a relationship and maybe that’s the problem.

Joe:
Well, and I think it depends. I think if you’re the kind of person that does what we just described at the beginning – where you’re like ‘Is it me?’ and you do some of that introspection. I mean, that’s half the battle. I can guarantee that if you’re working for a bad boss, he or she probably isn’t doing that. And I think that that’s part of the reason they end up underperforming in that leadership role. What’s funny is one of my favorite things that I get to do after a keynote is I’ll often get to like, hang. People will line up and we’ll chat afterward. And, people will share their individual stories with me. And that connection that I get to have with an audience afterward is really special. And I end up having people tell me some of their story or whatnot and it’s just funny. The number of times I have been asked this question, forgive the French, ‘Am I an asshole? …  Am I the asshole?’ Like, ‘Here’s my situation. I need you to tell me. You know, forgive the colorful language, but like a half a dozen times I can think of, I have been asked word for word, ‘Here’s my situation. This is what’s going on. Am I the…?’.

Alyssa:
Yeah.

Joe:
Yeah.

Joe:
And just that introspection is such an important component. And if nothing else, if you can go through that… if you’re working in a situation where it’s not working out with your boss and you’ve really moved through that and you’ve tried to adapt and change and figure out what you can do differently, and the problem still hasn’t been fixed, guess what? Probably not you.

Alyssa:
Yeah, yeah. That introspection, that level of self-awareness, that’s something that I think might be available for us to teach more, to enable, um, as parents… to support as friends, to one another, um, as colleagues, as bosses, when we see it in ourselves –  when we see it in those that we supervise. Being able to call that out and role model that level of self-awareness and introspection. That’s hard to do, but I think there are ways to do it.

Joe:
And boy, is that the perfect segue into what we really came here to talk about in our first segment this week, which is mediating co-worker conflict. Right? And I know you’re going to tell me in a minute or two about how important introspection and self-reflection is in that. Um, but I’ve gotten a couple of questions at our bossbetternow@gmail.com account lately that in one way or another, come down to this: What do you do when there’s two people who work together who just don’t get along? How do you mediate co-worker conflict? I wanted to bring this to the podcast today, Alyssa, because I know that we have deployed you to some of our clients when we’ve had two folks who needed mediation, who, you know, this is a more sophisticated problem than just, “he said, she said”, or, you know, the people are, you know, some people’s personalities are oil and water. And I get that, that happens sometimes. But we’re talking about maybe when there is a longer-standing conflict or feuding or disagreement between two people. Uh, so let’s assume that we’ve got some folks listening who are facing that right now on their teams. Some legacy employees who’ve been around for a while, where there’s some entrenched conflict. If you are going to be asked to sit with these two folks and begin helping them move through a process, what would that be like?

Alyssa:
So, it is not far off from the strategies that I use whenever I start coaching an individual. These are the core tenants of how I move through that conflict. Which is, I have to ensure that they know who they are at their core and why they’re acting that way. And that revolves around their values. So, I’m going to want to know their top five values. We go through a lot of exercises to get there and the whole thing. So, it’s not as simple as necessarily, but sometimes it is, asking them ‘What are your top five values?’. Um, what I have found in my I-don’t-even-want-to-say-the-number-of-years-’cause-that-makes-me-feel-really-old career in HR as a coach, is that the conflict that we encounter in the workplace is reactionary to the conflict that we are experiencing within our value system. So, what is that person doing or has done to you that has affected you – at the core of who you are – that went against your sense of respect… that went against your sense of, uh, happiness or of love? What is it that they have done that you took as a personal attack?

Joe:
Where was the violation?

Alyssa:
Yes.

Joe:
Yes.

Alyssa:
It is this deeper thing. The … you know, the little spats and things like that, that go on in the workplace. When we’re talking about mediating a conflict, it is 90 … This is my unscientific data, Joe, you’re going to really love it…. uh, 90% of the time around a values conflict (Joe: Yeah.) that they are having. And what is amazing is that I could meet with those two individuals, and in the cases in which I have done that, what I have found is that their values are either so oppositely, uh, centered, you know, ‘This is really important to me.’ and ‘This is really important to me’ — Like freedom and independence and over here is, you know, respect for authority and like all of these other things. And it’s so obvious to me then why these individuals are having problems operating in each other’s, you know, orbits. And then there’s the other cases where they’re so closely aligned…

Joe:
Yeah.

Alyssa:
That they could literally be mirror images of each other, and yet their experiences of how they experience each other — represents that internal conflict a little too much. And it gets a little too real. And that’s whenever the blows come.

Joe:
So, you said something a minute ago that I think is important to shine a light on. It sounds like if you have to engage in this kind of mediation, that your first step isn’t to sit down with them together. It sounds like this values conversation takes place at an individual level where you’re saying ‘Okay, tell me about your values. Who are you at your core and what is the problem here with this relationship?’ Is that a part of how that goes? Do you ask about the other person early on in that conversation? Do you shape it in that context, or do you just focus on that person in front of you?

Alyssa:
For the first few conversations, it’s generally about that person. Just that person. And then being able to frame in, you know, later on, how that conflict came to be. Because everybody’s got their story, right? It’s her story, his story, and then the other person’s story. And then somewhere in the middle, there is probably some semblance of the truth. But what you have to establish, and I think that this is critical as a role of a leader, is that you’re establishing your support of who they are. Wanting and earnestly, supporting who they are, right? First and foremost. And then, after you can assuredly say to them, and they feel supported that you, you know who they are, that you’re not going to sell them down the river, that you’re not out to get them…

Joe:
That you’re not on the other person’s side. Right.

Alyssa:
That’s right. That’s right. Then you can start to have a real conversation with both of them. And here’s the thing, I don’t generally, just as I guess maybe it’s a throwback to my HR days, I don’t speak about the other person without the other person being there. So, the way that you mediate the conflict, and you create those boundaries of trust with each of those individual relationships, as you say that out loud to each of them upfront, right? And you go through these exercises of values and then, once you have those, uh, those mechanisms of trust, then you can bring them together. And then you can say, okay, so we’ve had some really great discussions individually, and here’s where it gets real. And here’s what I have observed. And I’m not going to talk out of turn. I’m going to let the two of you talk about what you think the issues are. And then, with your permission, I’m going to talk about what I maybe think has contributed to the problems (Joe: Interesting.) and where we might be able to go from here to remedy them.

Joe:
So, you give them a chance to drive the car at first, but you’re saying ‘I’m going to come on the ride with you. I’m going to be sitting in the back seat. And if we don’t end up going in an inappropriate direction, I may course correct.’.

Alyssa:
Yep, absolutely.

Joe:
So are there ground rules, Alyssa, that you have to set for that conversation? If you bring in these two folks into a room together and you’re going to sit down and say, ‘Hey,’… Do you sit down and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to have an uncomfortable conversation? So, let’s put some ground rules in place to make this possible.’? Does that happen? And if so, what does it sound like?

Alyssa:
Yeah, I think it does. Um, especially if, um, emotions are raw and hurt is real, um, in the cases that I’ve been involved in, you know, uh, all of those boxes have been checked, uh, and then some. You know, sometimes they’re not even talking to each other and the same, you know, office space or what have you. Um, sometimes there’s been name-calling. I mean, there’s some hurt that needs to be remediated. And I think one of the things that, um, I establish as ground rules is how we talk to each other. Right? Um, what (this is gonna sound really therapizing or whatever, but, and I’m sure you can put it in maybe a more tactical way) but what does healing look like? Or what does success look like maybe is a better term in this way? Right? What, and again, these are…This is when we’re having those separate conversations. Right? And then when we bring them both in, this is what we’re going to say. And during our individual conversations, we’re also going to, whenever the individual tells you what the problem is, and whenever they tell you how they feel about it, you’re going to be able to ask them ‘Are you going to be okay talking about that to so-and-so? Are you comfortable saying those words to that individual? Can you say what you just said to me, to Joe?’ You know, like there’s ways in which you can frame individual, um, components of those sessions so that you are able to help guide them towards that, you know, group discussion with boundaries, with support, without taking a side.

Joe:
Yeah. I’ve done some of this and it mirrors some of what you’re describing. And yeah, I think I have a little bit different language around it, just by the nature of our innate personalities. Um, you know, folks on the podcast have already heard that, heard me say that a leader’s most important job is to keep their employees safe. And so, the ground rules are really in part about psychological safety. Bringing two people into a room together where maybe one is very direct, and the other is intimidated by that person – there’s an unequal power balance there and that Person A is just going to attack Person B cause that’s probably what’s gone on for a while. And now we’ve violated some psychological safety. And so, these kinds of ground rules are designed to allow for a dialogue to occur without violating the other person’s dignity. And so, I’m coming at it from the angle of, um, first and foremost, your responsibility here is to talk to each other. Not to me. And to listen to the other person so intently that you could immediately restate what you just heard. Right? And that’s okay. So, you know, Person A tell Person B what’s really been bothering you. And then, okay, Person B, I want you to restate what you just heard. What I heard you say is and go back to that person. And then the other thing I ask people to be very aware of is, whenever possible, avoid use of the word ‘you’. To instead make ‘I’ statements. ‘I feel this way.’ ‘I’ve experienced this.’ ‘It bothers me when…’ ‘I see…’. You know, there should be like a five to one “I” to “you” ratio. Otherwise, it turns into finger-wagging, um, and accusations. And depending on the nature of the circumstance, if it’s an emotionally charged thing, you know, we, as the mediator have to be tuned into when a timeout is appropriate or sometimes giving everybody in the room, the power to call a timeout, um, if people need to come down a step, um, knowing that in some cases, the person, one of the persons in the room might use their time out to avoid the discomfort of an important point. And so I think as the mediator, we need to say, okay, we’re gonna take a time out in a minute, but we need to see this moment through. Does that, that sounds like it lines up a little bit with some of what you try to do as well.

Alyssa:
Absolutely. And I think part of mediating conflict as a leader is to recognize this takes a lot of courage and a lot of vulnerability on your part as the leader, to be able to call out exactly like that and to hold the trust for each of those individuals and the boundaries, and to ensure that they leave still whole as a person and not more injured psychologically, um, or emotionally than when they entered that room.

Joe:
And that’s why it’s so important to have a conversation ahead of time, why you don’t start with putting the two people in the room together. In most cases, it sounds like there’s some benefit to sitting across from this person and saying, listen, we know that this conflict has been ongoing. We have reached a critical point where it can no longer continue and we need to pursue a solution. And because I don’t want you to leave, and I don’t want this other person to leave, we’ve got to figure out the path to peaceful coexistence. And it’s going to start with this conversation that you and I are going to have right now. And I’m going to have a similar conversation with so-and-so, but I need you to know that right now, we are going to start toward, working toward some kind of three-part conversation where we’re going to get in a room together, and we’re gonna try and sort this out. And I know it’s going to be uncomfortable, but I’m going to be there. You’re going to be there. We’re not going to take sides. We’re going to put some ground rules in place, and I can almost guarantee you’re going to feel better afterward. And if we aren’t able to do that, if the person isn’t willing to step into that, well, then we have to decide whether or not that person can continue. You know, and the goal is, is not necessarily, you know, I don’t need you to like each other. I don’t need you to be friends. I need you to peacefully coexist. And I need to make sure that any behavior that takes place is not doing harm, right? Let me, let me re-say that in a different way. We need to make sure that any harmful behavior that’s been taking place up to this point, either between the two of you or involving others ends. Right? It’s okay to not like each other. It’s not okay to do harm to our culture. So, you know, when Person A goes off and talks to Person C, D, and E about Person B, that’s sabotaging our culture. And so those are the kinds of things that do harm and then have to stop. And so, we’re going to have a conversation, air our dirty laundry a little bit. See if we can come up with a plan to peacefully coexist and define the specific behaviors from here on out that are expected and that are off-limits.

Alyssa:
I think you just mentioned another critical piece is the damage to the culture that has inevitably been done. Because every person has recruited people for their side, right?

Joe:
Sharks and Jets. *snapping fingers*

Alyssa:
That’s right!

Joe:
Sorry. I’m a musical theater kid. I’m a song and dance, man. It all comes back to it’s Bernstein. I mean, come on, *singing and snapping* do-do do-do-do do-do-do-do-do-do do-do do-do-do. Sorry.

Alyssa:
It’s alright.

Joe:
I threw you way off your point.

Alyssa:
I accept you for who you are despite your theatre thing.

Joe:
It’s a judgment-free zone. I appreciate that about you.

Alyssa:
So here was my point, my point was as part of that plan and boundaries and remediation and responsibility and accountability, that plan of accountability for wholeness and, um, psychological safety has to include how they – those two individuals – are going to help heal and or remediate the damage that they have done to the entire culture. How are you going to make it right in front of everybody?

Joe:
Yes. And that might be a part of the plan that it may involve standing in front of everybody and saying, ‘Hey, listen, we know you have all been an audience to, or been victimized by the trouble we have had with one another. And while this ain’t perfect, we want you to know that we’re working on it, and we want you to know that we’re going to try and do better at it.’ And it’s that making amends and acknowledging it. You know, the amount of tension that it would immediately dissolve from a culture just by doing that alone.

Alyssa:
Yep.

Joe:
It’s hard to put a price tag on it.

Alyssa:
Yeah. I mean, to be able to know, you know, as a “side effect” person of whatever conflict has been going on in your space to know that you don’t have to walk into that anymore. You’re not having to pick sides. Or if you talk to so-and-so, you might be asked questions.

Joe:
You can’t mention the other person.

Alyssa:
Right? Once that is diffused out in the open and then it levels the playing field back for everyone, that huge weight that you didn’t even know was on your shoulders is now gone. That pressure for being able to react in a way that you just is normal to you, rather than having all of these other thoughts and factors in who’s going to like me, and who’s going to dislike me and who’s going to talk about me behind my back. No. Diminished. Instantaneously dissolved – once you make it accountable in front of the team. But I think the key to that in my experience has been those two individuals, as part of that meeting, they have to come up with those terms. It’s generally not me the leader ‘This is what you’re going to do’. Now, if they’re like, you know, really lackadaisical and oh, well we’ll just buy everybody lunch. No, there has to be words — actual words that you speak and make this right.

Joe:
Yes. It should be hard. It should be hard. It should be hard to stand in front of your colleagues and say, ‘I’ve been a bit of a Dingus…’. Right? ‘About some of this stuff’, you know? And one other final thing on this, Alyssa, because I’d love to get your perspective as we wrap up this conversation, which I think has been super helpful. I hope that our BossHeroes … I imagine the folks who’ve gotten a lot of help from your insight on this. What do you do when you can’t resolve the conflict? Now I know a lot of times if you’re involved in the mediation, usually it’s our responsibility as leaders, if we see one party, perhaps not adequately participating in putting forth the effort to call that out and saying, ‘Listen, this person over here is really stepping forward and doing their best on this. And I don’t see you matching that.’ And so, if we get to a point where these two folks can’t coexist and one person’s got to go, I’m probably pointing to the person who hasn’t been giving it their best effort. But do you call that out? And what do you do when we can’t peacefully coexist?

Alyssa:
Well, so what I’ll add — another layer into there —  because in the circumstances, in which I have seen that dynamic happen, where one person is working, the other person isn’t, um, and the, you know, in-house, if we’ll call it that, mediation has not well, or has not remediated the issue fully it’s generally that this other individual has some other level of power structure. Okay. Um, I… I’m putting this out there because in my frame of reference, this is in the physician world and that person is a clinician and the other person not.

Joe:
‘You’re not going to fire me. I’m the highest revenue generator in this practice.’

Alyssa:
That’s right. That’s right.

Joe:
‘I’m gonna say whatever I want.’.

Alyssa:
So, what are you really willing to do in that situation? You have to know upfront. What are your, as the leader, real boundaries here, where, you know, is it going to get to the point where they’re going to be out the door? Right? Or if it’s not, then what is the remediation? And again, as a coach, that’s where I come into this circumstance too, is where I’ve been brought into circumstances like that. Where is this fixable? You know, can this individual, can we mediate their behavior more? Uh, is coaching outside of our organization, or other resources provided to this individual going to be of help, and maybe turn this thing around, you know, we’re willing to give every available avenue to try to get this person to a different perspective, to get this person to cohesively, civilly exist in this space, with the rest of the team at that point,

Joe:
This is why it’s so important that the leader take an active role in trying to help resolve some of these things. Because I think there are going to be times, like if you have that person for whom there’s no teeth to the consequences, they’re like, ‘Yeah, I get to do what I want and can move through this place however I want because of who I am and what I do here.’ So, the leader has to be able to identify consequences that that person does care about. I tell leaders all the time, ‘What’s most important to that person?’ What, when they lay their head on their pillow at night, what do they really want the next day? Or what are they really afraid of the next day? And what you’ve got to do is create line of sight between that thing and this bad behavior. You know, when you engage in bad behavior, it costs you. If what’s most important to them, is revenue or schedule or availability or flexibility, or staying on time. If you’re talking about a doctor’s schedule, you know, when you engage in this bad behavior, everybody becomes so frustrated with you. There’s no sense of urgency to help you. If you want to stay on time, these are the people that are going to keep you on time. If they don’t believe that you care about them, and they put forth their fullest effort. And I know I’ve been a part of those conversations, that person comes back and says, ‘But that’s their job. And that’s what they’re getting paid for.’ Yeah. But that’s magical thinking, Wizard. You know, like that, everybody’s just going to go at a hundred miles an hour, a hundred percent for you all the time because of the job. That’s not based in any kind of reality. And the mediator sometimes needs to call that out and say, ‘What is this costing you?’

Alyssa:
Yep. Yes, yes.

Joe:
Can I get an amen?

Alyssa:
Amen.

Joe:
Well, we would love to hear from you folks, um, how valuable or helpful was this conversation? Was there an aspect to mediation that we didn’t get into specific to your challenges that perhaps you’d like to see us revisit? If you’re watching us on our YouTube channel or on the Boss Better Now podcast Facebook page, drop a comment at the bottom of the video, and yes. Hello, we’re waiving, uh, or email the show bossbetternow@gmail.com. Let us know what you think.

Joe:
And on a lighter note, we arrive at the Camaraderie Question of the Week. Bosses build camaraderie on teams, by making it easier for people to find things in common with each other. Every week we give you a question you can use at huddles, at team meetings, in the hallway to facilitate connection and build camaraderie. You know, back when we were all in the same building together, and there were hallways. Our question this week, Alyssa, besides your phone, keys, and wallet, what is something you take with you nearly everywhere you go? This is a hard one.

Alyssa:
It really is because I have just within actually the last like month now that, you know, I’m fully vaccinated and what have you, been able to re-establish my mom bag. Before that, I was going with the bare minimum essentials. Like just the, you know, the one singular thing to the grocery store.

Joe:
My wife is a fan of the wristlet. Did I say that right there?

Alyssa:
Yes.

Joe:
The wristlet?

Alyssa:
Yes. She’s taught you well. Yes. So that’s what I was going with. But now that you know, the world is open, I have, I’ve gone back to my mom bag, which has anything that anyone might need. I mean, I have bottled water, lollipops, snacks, tissues, wet wipes, tea bags for gosh sake. I mean…

Joe:
You’re carrying a suitcase.

Alyssa:
I want to be prepared.

Joe:
You’ve got a tow handle and wheels on that thing for all that stuff in there.

Alyssa:
You know, it’s summer now we got sunscreen, bug spray. Like I don’t want to be caught without any of it. So, I just…

Joe:
A Glennon Doyle book and journal? I know you.

Alyssa:
That’s the other thing, I always have to have pen and paper and you know, a book. So yeah, all of it, all of it.

Joe:
I like that you have everything you need. And if you get in trouble, you can swing it at somebody as a weapon. That’s really useful.

Alyssa:
Yeah. I don’t carry the mace anymore. So yeah, the tool has to be the weapon. Well, you don’t carry a purse, Joe. So… what do you…?

Joe:
Nope. Sometimes wish that I did cause I’m a planner as we’ve talked about before and I tend to think, what am I going to need? And so, I stash a lot of stuff in my truck, but, um, I don’t have any exciting answers to this question. The best I came up with is, um, Apple watch. I wear my Apple watch all day from the minute I wake up, I put it on my wrist, and I stay there until right before I climb into bed. Cause I love the data, like all of the stats that I get about steps since and you know, activity and things like that. And the other thing I came up with for this is sunglasses. So, I take sunglasses with me year-round, everywhere I go. And usually, it’s two or three pairs and for a couple of reasons. Number one, um, I drop them all the time. I’m a hat wearer on the weekends and I will stash my sunglasses on the top of my hat when I take them off for a minute. And then I ended up probably bend over and they slam onto the ground. And then they’re scratched. This is why I only buy $5 sunglasses from the dollar store. ‘Cause I’m very hard on them. And so, I have like all of my bags for travel. They each have like a pair of sunglasses in ’em and ’cause as soon as any sun comes, I’m like ‘I’m blind. I can’t see. I need sunglasses.’ Not very exciting. I know. I’m sorry.

Alyssa:
No, I would be interested to see our audience responses to this to see if they were like, yeah, but you didn’t carry this around. So, audience, this is your opportunity to give us some intrigue, you know, bring us a level of interest and um, wow factor. Wow us. What is it that you take with you outside of your phone, keys and wallet? What’s the one thing other that you must have with you? What is the essential that Joe and I are, are missing here?

Joe:
Yeah. I bet we’d get some really cool answers. And if you want, you can tweet that I’m @joemull77. You can also do hit me up on Instagram at that same handle. Where you at on Instagram, Alyssa?

Alyssa:
Oh gosh. @mulleyaj. I think.

Joe:
There you go. So, if you just want to creep on Alyssa’s personal life, I just gave out her Instagram. No, she’s told me that’s okay.

Alyssa:
Yeah, that’s completely cool.

Joe:
And that’s the Camaraderie Question of the Week.

Joe:
Hey BossHeroes, more than once. You’ve heard me say commitment comes from better bosses, but where do better bosses come from? Answer –  The Joe Mull and Associates BossBetter Leadership Academy. The managers on your team aren’t going to develop the self-awareness knowledge, skills, and relationships critical to success in a one-day training. If you want them to motivate teams, maximize effort, and create the conditions for your employees to thrive, they need ongoing education. When your organization subscribes to our BossBetter Leadership Academy, all your leaders get to join me for a monthly learning event. These live coaching clinics, micro-trainings, and dynamic virtual summits take just a few minutes each month. And the year-round access to our Digital Vault gives you all the recordings for on-demand use, new manager onboarding, and more. Oh, and everything we do is evidence-based and highly entertaining… if I do say so myself. Best of all, for most organizations, you can get a year of this continuous leadership development training for less than the cost of bringing me onsite for a one-hour keynote. If you want managers to lead well, they need to work on it year-round. It’s like going to the gym. If you go once, you’ll get a good workout, but no long-term results. If you keep going though, you get healthier and healthier over time. The same is true for bosses. They need continuous learning and mentorship. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s give your leaders the skills, tools, and knowledge they need to supercharge commitment and BossBetter. For more information, including pricing, visit joemull.com/academy.

Joe:
All right, friends. It is time once again for Boss Like a Mother. *theme music plays* If you’re new to the show…

Alyssa:
I love that.

Joe:
So that’s the best, isn’t it?

Alyssa:
It is.

Joe:
I mean, that’s my favorite music. If you’re new to the show then Boss Like a Mother is a segment where Alyssa or I will share a parenting experience that we’ve had, that also has some real parallels to leading people. And uh, this week I want to talk about, um, my four-year-old son, Henry, who is a very willful child. He is more willful than the other two who came before. We lovingly joke that if Henry had come first, we might’ve only had one.

Alyssa:
And I have always responded ‘That is why I only have one.’

Joe:
Ah, okay. Okay.

Alyssa:
Because “the Henry” in my family did come first.

Joe:
Ah, yes. Um, it’s funny. We will see, you know, how Facebook memories shows you videos of the years’ past. Um, we’ll see videos of our other two kids when they were about his age now. And they’re sitting still and like playing with a single toy and we’re like… this… what a marvel… look at that! The child’s in one place. Um, and, um, Henry is just less compliant than the other two were. He just argues. You tell him to do something and he’s like, Nope, not going to do that. And he pushes back. And so, we get stuck in these cycles of responding to bad behavior by saying, Hey, listen, if you don’t do this, we’re going to take away storytime or you’re going to go to timeout. And um, and then you’ve got to, you’ve got to stick to that, right? You’ve got to, you’ve got to see through to it. And so, there’s this constant ramping up of the tension that I notice a lot. And I feel like it’s been happening a lot lately. He’s four, right? This puts this part of being four. And I am noticing that the path to fixing that is almost entirely about managing myself in the moment and not him. Um, you get caught up in the power struggle, right? As a parent and it’s, and it’s developmentally oriented. You think to yourself, I don’t want to reinforce to him that when he whines and argues and refuses to comply, that if he does it enough, we’ll just give up and then he gets away with it. And so, there’s this whole, like, I can’t let him get away with it. I appreciate that you are nodding. And uh-huh-ing at me right now. Um, so then you get caught up in this moment of like, I can’t give in. And before you know it, your temperature is rising, and your fists are clenched, and you’re frustrated. And you hear yourself yelling at your kid. Um, some real-life examples, just a couple days ago, he was outside playing in the backyard, and he took off his shoes and it was time to come in and I’m like, okay, get your shoes. He’s like, no. I’m like, go get your shoes. And he’s like, no. And he sits down and he’s like, I’m not, I’m not moving. And I’m like, get your shoes. And now it’s a thing it’s like, well, if I go pick up the shoes then I just reinforced that he didn’t have to pick up his shoes. Now you, I know you will sleep outside boy, until you carry those shoes in. *Alyssa laughing* Right? Thank you for nodding.

Alyssa:
Oh yeah!

Joe:
But here’s the thing. I’ve only had success when I have been able to almost step outside of myself and see the escalation. To then say, this isn’t working, you gotta try this from a completely different angle. And don’t get me wrong, the other angle doesn’t always work. I have taken the deep cleansing breaths. I have walked over. I’ve knelt down on his level, and I’ve been like, buddy, daddy loves you. You’re a great kid. This is one of those times when I just need you to do what you’re going to do. I need you to pick up those shoes and we’re going to go inside. And then he says, no, and then we’re back at it again. *roars* Right? It ain’t easy. But what I notice is when my frustration is high, my communication is less effective. My tolerance is lower and only by taking a break and not getting consumed in the power struggle. But instead saying, I just need to find another angle to reach him, and his barriers only then have I found success with it. And that’s about managing myself. And I feel like there are parallels there to leadership. What say you, my friend?

Alyssa:
I literally just like, was like, oh, if we just talked about this at the beginning with the self-awareness. Right? That is required and needed, um, for us as leaders and as parents. Right? And then what I… I so, so, so get this – your example with Henry. Um, what I have then gone into is what we just talked about in conflict mediation, which is okay. I go to my values. I go to my own values. Why is what he is doing right now, making me so freaking angry.

Joe:
I totally thought you were going to tell me that you made him do a values exercise.

Alyssa:
No, no. I go in me. Me. Right?

Joe:
Okay.

Alyssa:
And so, a lot of it comes down to me because one of my values is respect. And as a parent, how that shows up is sometimes I feel like I deserve automatically carte blanche for whatever I say, you respect me enough to just freaking do it.

Joe:
Yes!

Alyssa:
Don’t argue. Don’t talk back. And so, it hits me at a level 10, whenever it might be a level two, right.

Joe:
Yeah. It’s a violation. Yep.

Alyssa:
Because it’s an attack on my values. Right?

Joe:
Yep.

Alyssa:
So, self-awareness, going to my values, and then what you just described as this, you know, trying to see it outside of yourself, trying to step outside of yourself. I have used the terminology, and I think that this is also again, how we have to show up as leaders, is rather than seeing this as my kid or my employee, that’s doing this, that’s upsetting. This is a person. They are a person. And so, if I don’t have any claim to them and their behavior if I don’t have to take ownership of that in some kind of capacity. And rather I have the ability to see them as an independent person, a live human, that has their own feelings and emotions, no matter how inept they are at displaying them, whether they’re four or 40, right? Whether they’re four or 40, it’s the truth. We have to be able to see them as a person first. And then we can kind of have that ability to separate. Rather it’s not a personal attack on me. They’re their own person. Okay. Now I can diffuse my response to that behavior, to that conflict. So yeah, lots of parallels.

Joe:
I tell myself from time to time, I have to remind myself he’s four. He doesn’t have executive function, Joe. Like he doesn’t have flexible thinking and self-control, you know, he doesn’t have emotional intelligence. He’s four. So, let’s temper our expectations. And that, that piece that you talked about is I’m the parent. I expect that you, you know, recognize my authority and you know, I don’t want you to think, I just want you to do it. And we all know that from a leadership perspective, that gets you nowhere, right? If you just expect people to honor your authority only without ever working to help uncover what’s going on with them right now, to get them to move from point A to point B, you’re not going to be very effective as a leader. So, I think the parallel here is when I’m sitting there saying to myself, he doesn’t have executive function. He doesn’t have the tools that he needs to respond in this situation in the way that I want him to respond. We have to do that as leaders sometimes too. I want this person to respond in a particular way in this situation, but there’s something missing. What is it? Is it from something from within them? Is it from within the environment? Is it something that I’m not giving them? How can I help them get from point A to point B? Not because they have to through our tension and our disagreement, but how do I get them there because they want to. You know? And trying to coax them in a different way. And it, sometimes it just comes down to tone and style and whether or not that person experiences your compassion in the moment. I know that with Henry, if I can try to switch on the sweet compassion, then that can diffuse the situation I have this thing, this video, I saw online that sticks in my head a lot. Um, it was from inside of a big rig truck, you know, like a, uh, a truck driver’s truck. And there was a little boy in the backseat who was losing his mind, like temper tantrum, freaking out. And dad’s behind the wheel of the truck. And dad is a big dude. And like, he just sorta like, if you wanted, like what sort of material, stereotypical macho trucker dude with like the camo hat and the overalls, like that’s this guy and mom was sitting next to him and there, you could tell they’ve just been battling, and the kid just explodes and he’s losing his mind. And the dad reaches back with one hand and grabs the kid, pulls him up over the front seat and just hugs him, pulls him close, and just holds him. And in about five seconds, the kid goes from screaming to crying and you see his whole body just relax. And the parent had written something about how important it is to remember that most of the time, what the people around us need is not more discipline, but more love. And just as a way to release that kid’s tension in that moment. I, and I always see that video playing in my head like, okay, you’re mad, Joe, he’s being willful and he’s escalating. What’s the best tactic here is this the moment to just pick them up in a hug and be like, all right, let’s both catch our breath and figure out a way past this. And sometimes I think we need to do that as bosses. What’s the compassionate path to a resolution?

Alyssa:
What’s the opportunity for understanding that is available? Right? And I think that this is a beautiful parallel because we talk a lot about in, um, values-based coaching about how values are a lens. So that view that you’re talking about, you know, driving down the road in this big Mack truck, okay. It’s actually a metaphor in that, what he sees, that’s the values lens for which you’re operating and that other person, whether it’s, again, four or 40 is operating on a completely different they’re in the minivan, looking in their rearview.

Joe:
Yeah.

Alyssa:
And so, your views, while they might be seeing similar things or have the opportunity to see similar things, they’re vastly different. And so, we have to be able to understand that they’re different and have the opportunity to create the environment in which we seek that understanding.

Joe:
Absolutely well said, and a perfect ending to our segment to Boss Like A Mother.

Joe:
All right, folks, we’d love to hear your thoughts. You can send us a note, tell us what you thought of that segment or anything else that you heard. Tell us about a problem you’d like to see us address, or if you just want to send a note to remind Henry to take his damn shoes into the house, we’ll take it all. And then to send us a note over at bossbetternow@gmail.com. While you’re at it, we’d be so grateful if you would share our podcast on your social media to spread the word about our show, which we really aspire to be advice, humor, and encouragement for bosses everywhere. For now, we thank you for listening. We thank you for being with us and we will see you next time around.

Alyssa:
This show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Remember: commitment comes for better bosses. Visit JoeMull.com today.

 

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