Marie had been working hard to engage Jim, one of her team members, and have him commit to a project. From experience, she knew that if he didn’t say yes, she might not have his full commitment to it. If not she might, after a while, find him wanting to change the direction of the project and seek to adapt elements that had been decided earlier.
Another aspect she was considering, was her desire to let him use all of his competence and how he would stay enabled to highlight challenges that might arise. She wanted him to speak up whenever he felt it to be necessary.
She had outlined the project and he had started to use the suggested framework, but he wasn’t saying that he was ok with it. She could sense his worry and how he was trying to keep expectations low and trying not to overcommit. But Marie wasn’t willing to stick to low expectations, they wouldn’t deliver the results they needed.
Her dilemma was to deal with her desire to have a clear and trustworthy response to the project. And his dilemma was his desire to remain able to deliver what he was promising despite not knowing clearly what the work would be.
As the leader, it was her task to find a solution that would enable her to solve her dilemma. But she also had to deal with Jim’s dilemma as her dilemma depended on it. The dilemmas being different helped her, as it allowed her to think about her adaptability. She also knew how she wanted to support Jim on an ongoing basis. Marie then started to think about the reasons Jim might hesitate to commit. What part of the responsibility would he want her to carry, and which one was he willing to have himself? She knew that she was the one who had to be responsible for the business decision, but how far was Jim willing to be responsible for the technical aspects?
Our conversation allowed us to explore the variety of dilemmas she was facing as well as how she could address them in her upcoming discussion with Jim.
Mary was focused on delivering leadership to her team that would enable them to feel valued, listened to, and integrated with the creation process. She saw the many nuances of a yes or a no and she aimed to come to a yes or no that would be committed and transparent.
She wanted to avoid the yes that serve as an abdication. It could either be Jim deciding to do whatever she told him to do which would mean that she would constantly have to tell him what to do. Or it could be one where she was giving up and letting Jim decide to do whatever he wanted to do.
The no she wanted to avoid was a dictatorial one. One that would allow Jim to step out of the project and make it impossible for her to achieve it, but also a no that would force Jim to do what she wanted, knowing that this would jeopardize his morale.