I recently led a workshop with a City Council and the City’s Management Team based upon their I-OPT Strategic Profiles and Patterns. This team has worked well together for an extended period of time; but they had some friction that had created some injured feelings, some misunderstanding, and consequently, a drop in trust. The drop in trust felt like being dehydrated.
In this particular situation, the management team leans toward the Changer pattern. They see change as a solution to problems, and they are anxious to see their ideas implemented. The council, on the other hand, is equally committed to the success of the city and wants to support the staff; but as a whole, they are less inclined to the Changer pattern. They are inclined toward the Conservator pattern. What does it mean when Changers introduce new ideas to Conservators? It means lots of questions from the Conservators and eventually from the Changers.
The “aha moment” came for the Changers when the Conservators were able to say, “When we ask questions, it’s not because we don’t trust you or like you. It’s because we are anticipating how we can support you to the public so that when citizens ask questions, we’ve got answers.” They went on, “However, when you seem perturbed at our questions, or your answers seem to lack detail, it creates uncertainty in us, and that’s when our Conservator pattern puts the brakes on.”
The “aha moment” came for the Conservators when they realized that the way they were being perceived was impacting the entire team’s effectiveness. Taking a few moments in an unemotional setting to clarify their motivations went a long way in creating cooperation and rebuilding trust.
I’ve seen it many times, but it was a learning experience for me. Here were my takeaways:
- Self-Awareness. It’s really critical to understand why you are behaving as you do, and its impact upon the rest of the team. Avoid carrying your style too far.
- Attribute the Best—not the Worst—to Others. It’s easy to assign less-than-noble motives to people who don’t see things the way you do. Understanding the concepts of the I-OPT Profiles, however, can help you to avoid this fatal flaw to effective leadership.
- Open Dialogue. It’s human nature to want to talk about people instead of talking to people. That’s not the winning formula, though. In fact, it’s a recipe for more misunderstanding and misperception.
- Trust. I have noticed that some groups try to go on functioning even though trust is dangerously low. We wouldn’t keep pushing our bodies if we were dehydrated. Leaders, don’t try to do that to your team when trust is low. Do something about it.