Impeccable Leadership: create connection and collaboration in your team

If you want to your team members to achieve their objectives, they have to be able to express their emotions, opposition and views. Not obvious in the workplace. Because how do you, as a manager, create an environment that raises employees to a higher level? The Impeccable Leadership model is the perfect tool to help you do just that.

The idea behind the model? A manager has to know how to involve others in the realisation of objectives. After all, you want your team to commit themselves fully to the business and team aspirations. By translating general goals into individual targets, you get every team member to contribute to the overall result.

Moving towards a higher development level

By adopting the right approach, you continuously help your team reach the next development stage. This is a three-stage transformation. As a manager, you can do two things at every stage: stimulate or curb. Adopt the wrong approach and you risk the stagnation of your team and team members. In the worst-case scenario, this may even create resistance and opposition.  

A brief overview of the three stages to a higher development level:

  • The reactive stage: Your employees don’t feel completely at ease and adopt a wait-and-see and cautious attitude. As a manager, you have to look for connection. How? By responding to what the group expresses verbally and non-verbally and by not trying to frantically hold on to control. Within your team, you create space so that everyone feels at ease. In addition, you provide a clear framework of what you want to achieve.
  • The active stage: Your employees express themselves openly in the group. They are active and fully committed to the objective. They recognise the importance of collaboration, aren’t afraid to voice their opinions and discuss potential solutions. As a manager, you look for the different views within the team. By connecting these creatively, you often generate win-win solutions.
  • The proactive stage: In this stage, you concentrate your efforts on creating added value. Together with your team, you work towards achieving the objective(s). The key words here are ‘deliver’ and ‘innovate’. It is crucial that you act with the group’s and organisation’s interests in mind, as opposed to partial interests. 

A closer look at the reactive stage

In the reactive stage, the focus is on establishing a safe environment for all team members. Because everyone wants to give the best of themselves, from their own point of view. But individual beliefs, fears and areas of resistance can clash. Colleagues disagree with each other, engage in discussions or try to convince each other they are right. The challenge for you, as a manager, is to ensure that everyone feels safe. That way, every emotion, objection and belief is open for discussion.

A tricky undertaking. Because when employees react dismissively to a new internal process, for instance, the initial reflex as a manager is to quickly look for solutions or to have the conversation at a content level, supported by arguments. This feels safe, while it is, in fact, crucial to connect with your employees: openly, honestly and without judgment or recriminations. The Watzlawick model is a helpful tool in this.

Emotions first, content later

Based on the Watzlawick model, you can direct a conversation deliberately. Take, for instance, a presentation in which you introduce the new internal process. You are probably curious to know what your team members think of the proposal content-wise. But this is actually the final step. Ideally, you would first deal with the existing emotions and relationship. You do this by asking and saying the following:

  • How do you feel about this idea?
  • You are all fairly quiet. Why is that?
  • I feel it is important that you share your views and that we agree on this.

By asking questions, discussing emotions and sharing your vision on the working relationship, any potential areas of resistance will be raised which would otherwise remain unvoiced. Only once emotional and relationship concerns have been dealt with, should you consider the content aspect: the solutions, the next steps (procedure), and the arguments and facts (content).

To wrap things up, here are a few tips:

  • Silence, evasive resistance to respond are indications that people feel unsafe. In this case, something is wrong and you need to take action.
  • Start by creating a safe environment so that employees aren’t afraid to open up. Don’t judge and don’t become defensive.
  • Discuss the existing emotions and mutual relationship first. Only when these have been dealt with satisfactorily should you move on to solutions (procedure) and content.
  • Straightening out issues reactively takes more time and energy than a proactive approach. So, don’t avoid discussions about emotions and the mutual relationship.
  • Talking about emotions is nowhere near the same as becoming emotional. So, make sure you do this in a professional, assertive manner.

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