Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It’s Not That Simple

I was catching up with an old friend recently and he brought up a couple of challenges in his life that were holding him back. Being a coach, this is a pretty common occurrence for me and I have to be careful to stay in “friend” mode and not go into “coach” mode. As I was listening, I thought to myself: “This just doesn’t seem like that big a deal. I wonder why this is holding him back?”

Eventually I spoke up and offered him a suggestion.

“Well,” he replied, “it’s not that simple.”

At that moment, I began to flash back to early in my career as a manager and leader. I was pretty new at being a leader, but I had a great rapport with my boss and could ask him anything I wanted. There were a number of things that we were doing as a company that I didn’t understand. Sometimes when I asked about these things I would get excellent answers that really helped me learn and grow. But sometimes my questions would be met with, “Well, it’s not that simple.” Whenever I heard that reply I knew my lessons were over because my boss never explained what wasn’t simple.

Eventually, that boss left the company and I found myself working for someone new. And, while our relationship was not as strong, that didn’t stop me from asking questions. Sure enough, a couple of the same topics came up that had met with such resistance from my first boss. But this boss wasn’t reluctant to talk about the reasons that things “weren’t that simple.” The more he talked, the more I learned. And the more I learned, the more I understood. And several of the problems were indeed quite complex; dealing with a lot of different issues and often involving a variety of personalities. I could clearly see why “it’s not that simple” could apply.

But there were other times that the explanations were convoluted, but not complex. And while navigating through these challenges could remind one of a maze, in some cases it seemed like it was a “kiddie maze” and not really all that hard. Of course, I didn’t challenge these statements from my boss. I wasn’t totally comfortable with our relationship. So I just accepted his explanations at face value.

As I progressed as a leader, I continued to hear, “it’s not that simple” on a variety of topics. And clearly, the person making the statement was correct. It really wasn’t that simple. But more and more I began to recognize that this phrase was being used by executives as a way to avoid addressing some issues. It was like an “executive code phrase” that was intended to shut down discussion on a particular topic. But as I became more experienced, I was also less tolerant of issue avoidance and I began to press for details.

It turns out that “it’s not that simple” really means, “For whatever reason, I’m not comfortable with this issue.” In other words, it really WAS that simple, except for some personal baggage being carried around by the executive.

Getting back to my friend, I asked permission to step into the role of coach for just a few minutes. With his permission I began to dig down into his fear. It didn’t take long to uncover his real issue, expose it as a FEAR (False Expectation Appearing Real) and help him realize that his problem really WAS that simple. With his new found knowledge, he was able to quickly eliminate this issue from his life.

Now back to executives; or maybe just back to human beings as a whole. How often are we using the phrase “it’s not that simple” to shield ourselves from confronting a fear (real or imagined) that should be addressed? The next time you find yourself saying, “it’s not that simple,” ask yourself what you are really afraid of.

Maybe it really is just that simple.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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