By: Alan Berson
One of the most practical and useful tips given to bosses in LEADERSHIP CONVERSATIONS: Challenging High Potential Managers to Become Great Leaders is to have a “stay” interview with your best employees every quarter. Since you elect the members of the Senate and Congress, would you have a “stay” interview with your representatives based on their recent inaction…or not? Remember, these good folks do work for you – you put them in office and you must show leadership especially at times like this when they do not.
Leaders ask great, expansive questions while managers concentrate on providing focused answers. In the “stay” interview, I encourage you to ask questions and insist upon answers. Don’t let your representative keep the facts hidden in their minds – facts lose their power when brought into the daylight and we need to bring the power back to the people. Let’s pretend your elected representatives in the House and Senate are worthy of a stay interview. How might you start the interview?
First, ask: “Whose interests are you protecting?” From this question, you will learn the values and limiting beliefs shared by your representative.
Next, ask: “How open are you to a solution?” Make sure you define “open” properly – being open is not just being willing to listen. Rather more importantly, it is being willing to change your mind, something our folks in Washington seem to show an aversion to doing.
The third question is to ask: “How confident are you that the way you are governing is in the best interest of your constituents and the entire nation?” If you do not ask your representative this question, they will default to their own self interest of getting re-elected or remain in the narrow band of just their own constituency rather than looking at the larger picture of the United States of America. We have to think big to act big.
Challenge them to find the third alternative; how do they do this?
- They must stop blindly defending their current position.
- Then hold leadership conversations that find an option that integrates their own best ideas with the ideas of others.
- Finally, they should focus on what is right rather than who is right. This takes the personal, emotional argument and shelves it in favor of finding the alternative that works for everyone.
What is getting in their way?
- They have to believe that there is a third alternative – and there always is one!
- It starts with letting go of the alternative they have been advocating.
- Then, they must look at a continuum of possibilities to find new ones. We do not live in a black or white world – the wins are found in the intricate shades of grey.
This requires the leadership spirit of collaboration to win the right battle rather than the management mindset of confrontation – winning at all costs even if it is the wrong battle. There is and will be a third alternative to this sequestration. There always is. By having up-front, collaborative leadership conversations, the solution can come before the crisis rather than by creating false crisis. What a novel idea! Well, the “crisis” is here so let’s use the leadership conversations with the third alternative as a framework to solve it now, not later.
Oh, and if your representative says he/she did not have a choice – have this answer ready – “You always have a choice – everything is a choice – you just have to be willing to accept the consequences of your choice.” If his/her choice is to derail our economy and cause personal hardship, to make random, sub-optimal financial decisions that affect all of us, then you must take up the mantle of leadership. Make your next choice at the polls count. Choose to call your representatives and tell them to stop playing the blame game and take responsibility instead.
Check out Berson’s previous column, “Relationships that Work,” here.
Alan S Berson is the author of “LEADERSHIP CONVERSATIONS: Challenging High Potential Managers to Become Great Leaders” that was released last month by Jossey-Bass and was named one of the top 10 management/leadership books of February 2013 by Amazon.com. He is a speaker and executive coach and is a Learning Director at Wharton Executive Education. Take a free leadership/management assessment at www.myleadershipconversations.com.