Emotional Safety® – 3 rules for knowing when to fight (at work)

I was backstage about to give a speech to a large group of CLO’s who are seeking new ways to engage top talent while improving organizational performance…a difficult balance to achieve.

I spoke about how to keep high performers happy, largely through giving them a collaborative environment in which the best ideas often win. This gives your organization a Competitive Advantage.

Unfortunately and as humans, we are not wired to let the best ideas win. As humans, we are emotional first and rational second. This means that we usually fight when we feel like fighting, even if that is not the right time and/or person to be fighting with. Another way for you to think about this is to remember that we often fight because of how we feel, not because fighting may lead to the best outcome for the team.

You have a process for most things you do at work. Think of this is a 3-step filter for knowing when to and also, when not to fight.

We’ve got clients in more than 80 countries so let’s focus on a sign that all of us know, the traffic light. Red means stop, yellow means slow down, and green means go. In the context of fighting and in the spirit of leaving the room with the best idea, please use the traffic light in the following way:

  • If what you want to fight about is someone’s personality, you are in the red, Stop. Don’t have the argument. Wait until you can approach this type of issue, someone’s behavior for when you can be strategic and objective. This is about them, the most personal type of issue, and the most likely to make someone defensive.
  • If instead, you and others disagree on a process or a policy, you are in the yellow. This means Proceed with Caution and also with a time limit. For example, say something like, “we will dedicate the next 90 minutes to arrive at a conclusion. The first hour will be spent hearing everyone present their perspectives, and challenge one another. The last half hour will be deciding which option we will go with”
  • Finally, if what you disagree about is a strategy or an action plan, you are in the green, Argue all Day. Argue until you get what 80% or more of your people agree is an 80% (or better) solution. If you are the boss and this is your decision to make, still present the opportunity for people to fight for their ideas, and then make the call.
  • In short, know when fighting will serve you and also, potentially hurt you by following our traffic light process.

    The concepts we published in our Amazon Top 10 book, Step Up Lead in Six Moments that Matter have been covered by Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., the Washington Post and others.

    Today I’m talking about when to fight, make sure you check out our other blog called “Get Angry, Not Stupid” so you know HOW to fight.

    As always, we appreciate your time. For additional ideas, follow me on twitter:@HenryJEvans

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