My Job is to Force You to Perform

The president of a banking service company requested teambuilding at the suggestion of his board of directors.

In the middle of our teambuilding session, the following conversation took place, which may demonstrate the necessity to listen to someone.

President: My job is to force you to perform. When I jump on you, I expect you to fight back! (said to a staff member)

Me: Wow, that's a strong statement. Do you really expect your staff to fight back against the president of their company?

President: Yes, I do. That's what they get paid to do. How can we get new ideas if people don't stand up for what they believe?

Me: It's evident to me you feel strongly about standing up for what you believe. You even look visibly upset about this matter.

President: I am upset. If they don't perform, we don't grow, then we all fail.

Me: So to keep them from failing, you see your job as forcing them to perform.

President: Right.

Me: That's one way to do it. You might be interested to know there are people in this room who will speak less and less, the more you yell and coerce.

President: Why would they do that? I'm trying to help them.

Me: You know you are trying to help, but they don't. Where in your history did you learn that your job was to help people by coercing them?

President: That's the way it was in our family. My father expected us to perform. He said it was his job to make sure we didn't fail.

Me: Clearly he did a good job of seeing you didn't fail. You are the president of a company at a young age. But let me ask some people in the audience a question. Now that you all know when he cuts you off, gets angry, and insults you, he is only trying to help you so you won't fail, who of you will fight back in the future when he coerces you?

Staff: Silence.

Me: Would someone tell him why you won't fight back even though you know he's only trying to help?

Staff: "I couldn't do that. I'm Scandinavian; we are taught never to get angry with people. I never raise my voice. I couldn't do that, particularly out of respect for authority. I just couldn't do that."

Me (to the president): What do you think about that?

President: I'm amazed. That's a whole new way of looking at things. I don't know whether I'll be able to change that much.

As the president spoke and I listened (acknowledged, asked questions, identified stated and unstated emotions), people in the room were spellbound. They learned new information: the president was trying to be helpful, to keep them from failing. When he cuts them off in the middle of a sentence, when he gets angry and insults them, he thinks he's doing his job!



Additional Coaching Stories:

Sometimes It Pays to be Irresponsible

My Job is to Force You to Perform

I Get Frustrated When My Staff Gives Me Too Much Information

Eliminating a Stutter Put Me Back on the Fast Track

How Authority Affects Our Careers

The Outcome of Our Conversations Depends on Our Objective

How to Respond to "Shut Up and Listen to Me."

Presenting to Senior Executives Made Easy

To order "Be Your Own Executive Coach":
Chandler House Press

©2002 Peter deLisser. All rights reserved.