Client driven leadership training programs
Resilient Leadership Development

In a Toxic Triangle? Reposition yourself!

  • Fact: In a few seconds, we can be drawn into an emotional triangle. For example: A colleague at work comes out of the boss’s office fuming and makes a beeline to your desk. “You won’t believe what just happened…”.
  • Action: How you respond in this situation will strengthen or weaken your position in the ongoing triangle between you, the boss and your colleague.
    1] Avoid feeling sorry for someone, blaming someone or offering solutions,
    2] Listen without judgement and then help your colleague clarify their thinking about what happened in the boss’s office,
    3] Avoid the “togetherness position” which means avoid commiserating or feeling responsible to help your colleague figure out how to patch things up with the boss.
  • Fact: In a few seconds, we can be drawn into an emotional triangle. For example: A colleague at work comes out of the boss’s office fuming and makes a beeline to your desk. “You won’t believe what just happened…”.
  • Action: How you respond in this situation will strengthen or weaken your position in the ongoing triangle between you, the boss and your colleague.
    1] Avoid feeling sorry for someone, blaming someone or offering solutions,
    2] Listen without judgement and then help your colleague clarify their thinking about what happened in the boss’s office,
    3] Avoid the “togetherness position” which means avoid commiserating or feeling responsible to help your colleague figure out how to patch things up with the boss.

Muscles tight? Breathe deeply!

  • Fact: Our body “naturally” constricts and tightens muscles (neck, shoulders, jaw, etc.) as an automatic response to anxiety. Deep breaths oxygenate our blood and initiate a bio-chemical sequence that supports efforts to relax tight muscles.
  • Action: Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Focus your awareness on which muscles are tight, and very slowly inhale and exhale three times. As you exhale, consciously relax the muscles you find are most tight.
  • Fact: Our body “naturally” constricts and tightens muscles (neck, shoulders, jaw, etc.) as an automatic response to anxiety. Deep breaths oxygenate our blood and initiate a bio-chemical sequence that supports efforts to relax tight muscles.
  • Action: Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Focus your awareness on which muscles are tight, and very slowly inhale and exhale three times. As you exhale, consciously relax the muscles you find are most tight.

Are You Being Trapped by the Poorly Differentiated?

  • Fact: Every organization will at some point have poorly differentiated people within their ranks. A poorly differentiated person is highly reactive, intrusive of others’ boundaries and does not take responsibility for self. As such, they often demand a disproportionate amount of a leader’s time and energy to manage and contain. This comes at a high cost for both the leader and for his or her team, who often grow to resent the poorly differentiated employee.
  • Action: Reflect on whether any of your current employees are poorly differentiated and if so, what impact they are having on you and on your team. Consider how much time you are spending managing them and whether you need to change your tactics to produce different results.
  • Fact: Every organization will at some point have poorly differentiated people within their ranks. A poorly differentiated person is highly reactive, intrusive of others’ boundaries and does not take responsibility for self. As such, they often demand a disproportionate amount of a leader’s time and energy to manage and contain. This comes at a high cost for both the leader and for his or her team, who often grow to resent the poorly differentiated employee.
  • Action: Reflect on whether any of your current employees are poorly differentiated and if so, what impact they are having on you and on your team. Consider how much time you are spending managing them and whether you need to change your tactics to produce different results.

Do We Grow More From Comfort or From Challenge?

  • Fact: Our body’s immune system grows stronger when it is faced with a virus or manageable threat that it must defend against by growing antibodies. This is at the heart of why immunizations work. Likewise, individuals and organizations grow stronger from overcoming adversity, from being stretched outside of their comfort zones, and from the challenge of finding new capacities within themselves.
  • Action: Consider the extent to which you are currently asking your team to stretch, to grow and to face challenge and adversity. The role of the leader is to act much like the immune system of the body, developing stronger internal capabilities in the face of threats, which in turn builds confidence, fortitude and strength. What new request might you make of your team for the sake of strengthening their capacity to face and overcome challenges?
  • Fact: Our body’s immune system grows stronger when it is faced with a virus or manageable threat that it must defend against by growing antibodies. This is at the heart of why immunizations work. Likewise, individuals and organizations grow stronger from overcoming adversity, from being stretched outside of their comfort zones, and from the challenge of finding new capacities within themselves.
  • Action: Consider the extent to which you are currently asking your team to stretch, to grow and to face challenge and adversity. The role of the leader is to act much like the immune system of the body, developing stronger internal capabilities in the face of threats, which in turn builds confidence, fortitude and strength. What new request might you make of your team for the sake of strengthening their capacity to face and overcome challenges?

Organizations, like families, pass on to succeeding generations both strengths and vulnerabilities

  • Fact: In the business world there is a widespread recognition of how important the “corporate culture” can be in terms of productivity, employee engagement, and a host of other factors that impact the bottom line. But the focus is almost always on the rational system, and there is remarkably little attention to the patterns embedded in the emotional system—patterns that can have every bit as much impact on the bottom line as typical business metrics that are more easily captured.
  • Action: Look for opportunities to call attention to patterns in the emotional system of your organization (e.g., reactive cutoffs, scapegoating, anxious triangles, etc.) and the negative impact they have on the smooth running of the rational system.
  • Fact: In the business world there is a widespread recognition of how important the “corporate culture” can be in terms of productivity, employee engagement, and a host of other factors that impact the bottom line. But the focus is almost always on the rational system, and there is remarkably little attention to the patterns embedded in the emotional system—patterns that can have every bit as much impact on the bottom line as typical business metrics that are more easily captured.
  • Action: Look for opportunities to call attention to patterns in the emotional system of your organization (e.g., reactive cutoffs, scapegoating, anxious triangles, etc.) and the negative impact they have on the smooth running of the rational system.

Feeling isolated? Communicate more

  • Fact: In stressful situations, people may seek relief from their increased anxiety by moving away from those around them. Their distancing is driven by forces that operate at an unconscious level.
  • Action: Help your “runaway”, don’t forget about them. Resist the temptation to do nothing. Instead, reach out to encourage them to think through the cause of their anxiety. Then, stay close enough to influence them, but keep enough distance to lead them.
  • Fact: In stressful situations, people may seek relief from their increased anxiety by moving away from those around them. Their distancing is driven by forces that operate at an unconscious level.
  • Action: Help your “runaway”, don’t forget about them. Resist the temptation to do nothing. Instead, reach out to encourage them to think through the cause of their anxiety. Then, stay close enough to influence them, but keep enough distance to lead them.

Feeling Hesitant to Act Boldly? Gather your courage and do it!

  • Fact: During anxious times, we are less inclined to take risks and more inclined to play it safe. This is because high levels of anxiety tend to erode our confidence and weaken our conviction.
  • Action: Determine what move you must make to chart a new course for yourself and/or your team, and do so based on a thoughtful consideration of the risks involved, the chance of success, and your own vision and values. Then move forward boldly, in spite of your fears.
  • Fact: During anxious times, we are less inclined to take risks and more inclined to play it safe. This is because high levels of anxiety tend to erode our confidence and weaken our conviction.
  • Action: Determine what move you must make to chart a new course for yourself and/or your team, and do so based on a thoughtful consideration of the risks involved, the chance of success, and your own vision and values. Then move forward boldly, in spite of your fears.

Triangles Form to Relieve Anxiety

  • Fact: Triangles are nature’s way of lowering anxiety. When a dyad relationship is under stress, one or both members may seek to reduce their anxiety by reaching out to a third person. The triangles that are formed will become either healthy or toxic.
  • Action: Watch for the formation of triangles in your relationships. When you see one coming your way, don’t take sides, but do take a stand on the issue. Remain emotionally neutral while encouraging your colleagues to work through their challenge or problem together.
  • Fact: Triangles are nature’s way of lowering anxiety. When a dyad relationship is under stress, one or both members may seek to reduce their anxiety by reaching out to a third person. The triangles that are formed will become either healthy or toxic.
  • Action: Watch for the formation of triangles in your relationships. When you see one coming your way, don’t take sides, but do take a stand on the issue. Remain emotionally neutral while encouraging your colleagues to work through their challenge or problem together.

A Leader’s Empathy Can Backfire

  • Fact: Expressing genuine care and compassion for your employees builds trust and fosters connection. But sometimes what is most needed from you is not comfort or empathy, but challenge. Consistently comforting struggling employees, or allowing them to underperform because they are facing tough times can send the wrong message and promote dependency rather than responsibility.
  • Action: Next time an employee or family member is struggling to meet their responsibilities or to overcome their challenges, resist the urge you might have to prematurely “rescue” them or let them off the hook. Instead, express your confidence in their capabilities and reiterate your expectations of them. Then hold them accountable while providing whatever support or resources are within reason.
  • Fact: Expressing genuine care and compassion for your employees builds trust and fosters connection. But sometimes what is most needed from you is not comfort or empathy, but challenge. Consistently comforting struggling employees, or allowing them to underperform because they are facing tough times can send the wrong message and promote dependency rather than responsibility.
  • Action: Next time an employee or family member is struggling to meet their responsibilities or to overcome their challenges, resist the urge you might have to prematurely “rescue” them or let them off the hook. Instead, express your confidence in their capabilities and reiterate your expectations of them. Then hold them accountable while providing whatever support or resources are within reason.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Really?

  • Fact: The nugget of folk wisdom contained in this familiar saying may seem quaint to the point of being more myth than fact. But there is an accumulating—and by now conclusive—body of research that has documented the extent to which both “nature and nurture” conspire to shape the person we are. We “inherit” both our strengths and our vulnerabilities from a combination of genetics and epigenetics, from our DNA and from environmental factors such as the emotional patterns passed down to us across multiple generations of our family tree.
  • Action: Awareness is the essential starting point for improving how you show up as a leader. Grow your self-awareness (by personal observation and from conversations with family members) of the automatic, inherited family patterns that drive how you interact as a leader at home and at work.
  • Fact: The nugget of folk wisdom contained in this familiar saying may seem quaint to the point of being more myth than fact. But there is an accumulating—and by now conclusive—body of research that has documented the extent to which both “nature and nurture” conspire to shape the person we are. We “inherit” both our strengths and our vulnerabilities from a combination of genetics and epigenetics, from our DNA and from environmental factors such as the emotional patterns passed down to us across multiple generations of our family tree.
  • Action: Awareness is the essential starting point for improving how you show up as a leader. Grow your self-awareness (by personal observation and from conversations with family members) of the automatic, inherited family patterns that drive how you interact as a leader at home and at work.