A couple of weeks ago I was in a client meeting that didn’t go the way I had hoped. One of the participants was visibly distracted, upset even.
The meeting went fine. We got through the planned agenda. But I was irritated that the client didn’t show up in a way that was most productive for the entire group.
Afterwards, I called Chip to – in my words – provide some encouraging insight that might be helpful for his client. In reality what I offered was little more than a complaint. With an off-put laugh Chip responded, “Wes, that’s not encouraging at all!”
Chip’s response woke me up to my hypocrisy. My irritation was much more about me than it was about the client. Namely, I could earn a handful of kudos to fuel my ego if I conducted a great meeting where all the participants walked out feeling energized.
What I missed was an opportunity to lead that team to support the needs of the moment. That conversation could have been more transformative than the agenda I was determined to work through. Ironically, how I showed up wasn’t the most productive for the entire group.
So how did I miss the opportunity?
- I came in with self-serving expectations: Even before the meeting started, I had calcified the agenda in my mind and set up an expectation for someone to perform against it – an expectation that would satiate my ego, but not best serve the people in the meeting.
- I wasn’t paying attention: I fell asleep to what the moment and person required. If I was paying better attention, we might have entered a more powerful dialogue for the group.
- I lost sight of the journey: I lost sight of the fact that the long road of development requires learning and compassion to meet everyday’s new challenges. I focused on someone’s performance at the expense of their growth.
Jostled awake to my self-sabotage, I was able to course correct with the help of a few factors:
- A team that gives clear feedback: My team doesn’t hold back. They’re willing to point out hypocrisy where it shows up (and laugh at it with me, actually). They don’t condemn, but they also don’t tolerate a lack of compassion. The high trust work we do requires compassion.
- An honest look: It can be easy for me to dismiss feedback that doesn’t fit inside my self image. Hypocrisy can be hard to stomach, but without honestly reflecting on the negative aspects of my personality there’s little opportunity for growth.
- A team that gives grace: I’m part of a team that values learning over performance. We know that failure and disillusionment are part of growing. I knew I could process my internal world without condemnation from my team, even if I didn’t afford the same grace to my client earlier! (ouch!)
The truth is that helping leaders grow is a long journey that requires time and healing. And my healing is as much my team’s story as it is mine.