Time For A Strategic Significant Emotional Event

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us and those around us more effectively.  Look for the learning.”  Louisa May Alcott

There comes a time when the leader has done all she can and people issues continue in the workplace.  The leader is not breaking through to solve the issue … heck, what is the true, bottom-line issue anyhow?  All she knows as the leader is that the group is on rocky ground, folks are acting up, and the work results are not near what they need to be for their success.  What is the leader to do?

There are times when the leader may need to trigger a so-called Strategic Significant Emotional Event (S.S.E.E.) in the workplace.   Unfortunately all of us will experience a number of significant emotional events in our lives.  That is life.  These events can lead to a change in our outlook, mindset and behavior.  We are different people once we make it through to the other side of a significant emotional event.

What I am talking about here today though is not these life events.  I am focused on the leader realizing that her workplace can use a strategic significant emotional event.  The focus is on the term “strategic” in that she, as the leader, will trigger the event itself and force the team to hit bottom as a means to build the team up into a stronger, higher performing unit.  Typically the focus is on one person in need of the S.S.E.E.  Yet the group itself may be suffering and a reset is needed for the good of the group.

Here are some rules of the road for the Strategic Significant Emotional Event:

  • The leader has to be committed to see the task through: just like an exorcism you do not want to back out half way through.

  • Communication, more communication and then some really good communication.  This serves the leader in all situations including these tough situations.

  • The leader should maintain a tough love mindset: push hard to get the breakthrough, but deep down hold onto the deep caring for the person(s) involved.

  • The leader can not shy away from the true issue once identified.  In many cases this may be one specific person and not the larger team.  The team knows it and the leader knows it.  As such, to put the full team through a tough and deep conversation will be counterproductive if indeed the discussion should be more focused.

  • The leader understands that the answer comes from the person or team.  The leader can not mandate the solution.  The leaders role is to push and pull and stay firm to get the person or team to see the issue and impact and are willing to change.

  • The leaders’ behavior has to be different and even extreme through this process: get louder, get taller, speed it up.  You are committed and show it.

  • The leader needs to focus on the desired behaviors needed for success in the job function.  But on the flip side …

  • The leader must focus on the bad behavior directly observable and call it out.  This is the key moment and where the S.S.E.E. hits the moment of truth.  The best tool for the leader here is the mirror – metaphorically hold up a mirror for the person or team to see their poor behavior.  Think about it – when you have behaved badly do you want to look yourself in the mirror?  What is the impact of this bad behavior.

  • The leader needs to treat the S.S.E.E. as an event (an intervention).  In most cases it is advisable to call it what it is and do not dance around the topic.  Bring the group to a meeting room or if one person, talk to her one-on-one in a defined well-chosen location.

  • The leader needs to track her own emotions.  This process is tough and it may be turned back onto you.  The leader has to recognize where her emotions stand and work to control them.

  • The leader needs to be committed to the next step.  Once the team becomes focused and committed to a change, there may be important things the leader commits to going forward.  On the flip side, if the desired behavior changes do not happen, the leader needs to make the tough choice to change the team or remove the person from the job.  Either way, when coming out of a deep and profound discussion, there will be followed up and the leader must follow through.

On top of all of the rules I list above, the leader needs the support of her more senior leaders and HR department.  These days the level of direct and deep interaction I am calling for here is often muted and discouraged.  I will refrain from why I think this is the case. Nonetheless, the leadership team up and down the chain need to support the tough love of the strategic significant emotional event.  I have been involved in several of these and yes, both receiving and delivering.  I may discuss these events in future posts as I have learned much from them and developed as a leader through these events.   

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