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Civility – Exercise | Deliberate Practice

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From the Post: Bad Behavior in the Office, Really?

Time to conduct stay interviews. I have heard about stay interviews over the past couple of years. It is about leaders asking staff what could they do and offer to keep people from leaving.

Before I tried this with leaders I asked over 60 full-time independent contributors, and non-leaders in my organization in three separate group meetings, if I were their manager what could I offer them to stay with the company. What could I do within my ability to support them, other than a raise, better benefits, free lunches, more telecommute time, and free childcare what could I offer them? 

I’m not sure if the answers were a surprise or not. To get your staff to talk, you do need to make sure you can provide a safe space for this type of dialogue. This is what I heard:

  • The number one answer: Respect, something Christine Porath talked about in her video.
  • Next, their opinions mattered, they wanted to be heard and taken seriously.
  • They wanted a space where they could talk about their concerns. During this exercise, they were surprised by the number of people experiencing the same feelings of anxiety and fear of what was happening to everyone around them because they had never talked about any of this as a group.
  • They wanted to be sure that they could take their regular breaks and their full lunchtime to help their well-being.
  • Since this conversation was during Covid and everyone was remote, they wanted to be able to spend some time (virtually) doing team building, they called it survival camp. 
  • They asked when they talked about their anxieties and challenges they just wanted leadership to listen, not necessarily fix things because of past promises not kept, and if there were things leaders could do something about, that was a bonus.

There were many similar responses, these were the major ones. I asked each group at the end of the dialogue if they could pick one behavior that could be a group behavior, something specific, observable, and repeatable that we could do as a team. All three groups agreed to a form of this: 

We want to feel supported as valuable members of the team. 

The next question you ask the group is for them to define what ‘feeling supported’ means to them. Then pick two to four of the top responses that you and the team can practice together to support the feeling of being a valuable member of the team.   

I suggested to leadership that they do stay interviews and ask the same questions that I did to start with. What we found was the answers from multiple leaders who did these were pretty much the same as what I heard. There was a consensus around the behavior of support and respect. Other leaders heard other things based on what each team was experiencing. For the most part, it came down to support and respect.

Now the work began. Leaders needed to look for crucial moments or opportunities to practice support and respect every chance they got. For some teams this worked, for other teams, it didn’t because there was an issue where the leader couldn’t support and maintain a safe space and their incivility was who they have become. 

What we learned

We still lost people because of varying reasons beyond our control. We were able to keep others because their leaders understood that a title is not always about the process of leadership, it’s about the leader’s ability to influence and support others to do and be their best.

Leaders opened up during these meetings and shared their concerns, anxieties, and fears on top of carrying the fears of the team. This helped teams to understand the pressure the leaders were under and realize everyone was in this together. This helped to build trust because of the leader’s transparency and being vulnerable as a person. 

If you don’t think civility is important, think again. If you allow for an environment where people feel threatened, unimportant, or expendable they will grumble, they definitely won’t take pride in what they do, and most likely leave. 

Talk to your people, and let them know they are important to you and the organization. If you ask them what they think, be ready to hear what they say. An effective leader will encourage open and honest dialogue in a safe space and look to make personal improvements if needed. 

Deliberate practice is not something we do once in a while. If you want your staff to take you seriously do it all the time. Make it part of your daily leadership work. If you don’t want to be bothered, do your organization a favor and step down.

To the rest of us, I’m not suggesting that we bow down to the man or the machine, maybe, we need to deliberately practice some civility and gratitude ourselves for what the organization is trying to do or at least to the people we work with. There is always some place worse than where you currently work and those people are looking for your job. 

Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.

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