Turn Challenging Interactions into Growth Opportunities for Teams

Carolyn Mozell is the founder and CEO of Leaders Who Connect and Inspire LLC and knows firsthand how transformative it can be when leaders and employees treat each other with mutual respect, kindness, and a genuine desire to see each other succeed.  Carolyn served in some of the highest levels of local government leadership for over 25 years. Rising from executive assistant to deputy chief, she also knows that leadership is a privilege. Now, Carolyn leverages her direct experience advising elected officials, cabinet level leaders and activating diverse high performing teams to help leaders in business, nonprofit organizations and government agencies do the same.

Picture this: a manager, passionate about a new approach they’ve developed, eagerly shares their ideas during a leadership team meeting. As they start explaining their strategy, they are abruptly interrupted and talked over by their director, who quickly dismisses their idea without allowing the manager to fully articulate their reasoning. The manager, feeling deflated, eventually “agrees” but leaves the meeting with a sense of frustration and diminished confidence.

As a leader, how did the director’s approach make you feel?

Now, reflect on your recent leadership team meetings. Have you ever been this type of leader? Did you interrupt or dismiss an idea from a team member without hearing them out? If you answered yes, this could indicate a leadership blind spot that needs to be addressed.

Being mindful of your leadership style and addressing blind spots is crucial. Engaging in dismissive interactions like the one described can negatively impact not only the manager but also the entire team dynamic. However, by adopting constructive approaches, you can turn such challenges into catalysts for growth and improved communication. Here’s how:

Listen Actively:

 Encourage active listening among all team members, including leaders. Ensure they have the space and respect to fully express themselves without interruptions. This fosters a culture of open communication and mutual understanding.

Show empathy and respect:

Emphasize the importance of empathy and respect in leadership interactions. Leaders should acknowledge and validate the contributions of their team members, even if they disagree with certain approaches. This builds trust and encourages a collaborative environment where diverse viewpoints are valued.

Give constructive feedback:

Teach leaders how to provide constructive feedback respectfully. Encourage them to ask questions, seek clarification, and offer suggestions for improvement rather than dismissing ideas outright.

Being mindful of your leadership style and addressing blind spots is crucial.


Empower your team:

Empower managers and team members to advocate for their ideas and solutions. Encourage them to articulate the rationale behind their approaches and constructively stand firm in defending their perspectives when appropriate. This helps build confidence and assertiveness in leadership interactions. 

Show compassion:

After challenging interactions, facilitate follow-up discussions to address any lingering concerns or misunderstandings. Encourage open dialogue, active listening, and a focus on finding common ground and solutions that benefit the team and the organization as a whole.

Equip teams for success:

Invest in ongoing leadership development programs that focus on effective communication, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and collaborative decision-making. Equip leaders with the skills and tools they need to navigate challenging situations and foster a positive and productive team culture. 

By addressing and improving how challenging leadership interactions are handled, organizations can mitigate these negative impacts on team dynamics. Encouraging respectful communication, active listening, empathy, and empowerment fosters a positive team environment where all members feel valued, heard, and motivated to collaborate towards common goals.

When leaders prioritize cultivating an empathetic, empowered, and efficient environment, they naturally become the type of leader people WANT to follow. At the end of the day, that should be the goal.

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