28 eyes looked at me skeptically. They were convinced the task I had outlined for their strategy session was beyond their reach. “Just too hard,” they explained. “I’m not that creative,” said another.
No time for second guessing. Sure this exercise had worked in other contexts, but I had never worked in this industry before. What if they were right? “Shut up,” I told my inner voice, rudely. Sometimes you’ve just got to be direct with that sucker or he’ll get the best of you.
On the outside, I was equally direct, but kinder. “Of course you can do this! I’ve never seen this approach fail (true statement). You’ve totally got this. Now let’s talk about where you’re stuck.”
Still skeptical, a few pairs of eyes softened. I could see the beam of possibility shining through.
I knew I needed to diffuse the scene, 14 doubters against one was too much. “When I get stuck like this, I often find it useful to take a walk,” I offered. “If anyone wants to take a lap around this beautiful hotel to think, that’s just fine. If you’re ready to bounce your ideas off someone else it may be helpful to talk it through with your colleague. And, I’m going to be over here and would love to talk through this with anyone one-0n-one.”
A few took a walk. Others paired up. I held a few consultations, where we explored what they were most afraid of.
When we regrouped, they nailed it. Not just in a hammer and nail sort of way. They nailed it with all the impact of an electric nail gun. In fact, that session was one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen.
5 Ways To Encourage Your Team Toward “Yes You Can”
1. Be Audaciously Confident
Be confident in the mission. Be confident in the team. Be confident in the power of discomfort. Don’t articulate your own self-doubt– that’s not humble, it’s destructive.
2. Divide and Encourage
It’s easier to stay stuck when you’re surrounded by stuckness. Chances are everyone’s not stuck in the same place or for the same reasons. Find a way to separate the naysayers.
3. Build on Past Success
Ask your team member to recall a time they’ve been successful in a similar situation. Start from a confident place. “I’m sure you’ve done well in similar situations in the past. Can you tell me about a time… what did you do… what made it successful?”
Be available. Ask provocative questions that lead them to success.
5. Help Them Identify What Scares Them
“What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” I asked one woman.
“I might get emotional,” she confided.
“Okay that’s understandable,” I said matter-of-factly, and continued. “Emotional in a bit verklempt type of choking up or a full on wailing and gnashing of teeth?”
She laughed, “Nah, it’ won’t be that bad.”
“We can handle that…”
She shared her story with the team. She wasn’t the one who cried. Message received.
Teams need encouragement to take little risks that feel big.
Little risks lead to brave steps which lead to bold work which lead to breakthrough results.
Encourage them. Please.
The world needs more brave doers.