Idea of the Week Archives

Check back often for Weekly Tips and Advice from the Coaches at Resilient Leadership.

Triangle Management = Emotions Management

  • Fact: Building and maintaining healthy and authentic relationships is the hallmark of good friendships and good leadership too. To be a great friend, be open and welcoming but courageous too.
  • Action: Even your best friends will, on occasion, try to draw you into a toxic conversation about someone else. Don’t take the bait. To preserve great relationships keep them wholesome by keeping them free of gossip, scapegoating or third person criticisms.

Triangle Management = Emotions Management

  • Fact: Building and maintaining healthy and authentic relationships is the hallmark of good friendships and good leadership too. To be a great friend, be open and welcoming but courageous too.
  • Action: Even your best friends will, on occasion, try to draw you into a toxic conversation about someone else. Don’t take the bait. To preserve great relationships keep them wholesome by keeping them free of gossip, scapegoating or third person criticisms.

In a Toxic Triangle? Look After Yourself!

  • Fact: It happens all the time. Two colleagues who are caught up in a heated debate have you cornered. Both want you to side with them in “their debate”. You feel caught, obligated, duped.
  • Action: Don’t take a side but do take a stand. Your colleagues will benefit from your input on the issue needing resolution. They will not benefit from you taking a side on the debate of the issue. Remain emotionally neutral and place the resolution where it belongs – with your two colleagues.

Recognize Balance in Relationships: Not too close. Not too distant.

  • Fact: Each of us instinctively maintains a comfortable balance between “close enough” and “distant enough” in our relationships. To a great extent, our balance point is “built in” from childhood. But under stress the balance point can shift toward fusion or cutoff to relieve anxiety.
  • Action: Think for a moment about people in your social networks. Has the close-distant balance shifted for a friend or colleague? If so, look for an anxiety producing cause that may be responsible. Consider if a re-balancing step on your part might help your friend or colleague regain their balance.

One Key to Leadership Success: Mining the “hidden gems” buried in your organization’s past

  • Fact: Every organizations, like every family, has an inheritance of both strengths and vulnerabilities, but these are usually hidden in plain sight. Embedded “default tendencies” and patterns of functioning during stressful times can bring out the best and the worst in the corporate culture. Knowing in advance what those strengths and vulnerabilities are, what tends to trigger them, and how best to manage them puts an organization at a significant competitive advantage.
  • Action: During strategic planning, risk assessment, or contingency preparedness conversations, bring up the topic of this mixed inheritance, and ask those present to reflect on and name how best to minimize the organizational liabilities and leverage strengths whenever anxious times strike.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.