True Story - Part 2
"He manipulates, no dominates me. It won't help my project. His behavior will slow down the important things."
"David - I ask about you. How do you feel about it?
David: "What do you think? It felt awkward!
"How would you like to feel instead? Or when would this conversation be a success for you?”
Drained David said: "At least I don't want to feel as angry that I can't sleep. And not so intimidated, instead more self-confident, without offending him. You know, he left the door open when he talked to me. Everyone could hear how he was talking to me..."
I asked him.
"You know, David, it sounds to me like you're in full control of your job at the company. You told me about your patents. I'm wondering if your boss, who knows that everyone sees you as a smart person, might feel threatened about that?
He scratched his forehead and said. "I don't know. I just like what I do. It's fun."
“And when you encounter your boss as the product owner, how do you think it feels for him?
He sat there for a minute staring at the ceiling.
While he turned his head back, David said:
"He's probably at least as exhausted as I am. But he his a real dick. He might ask me first, if I have time to do it instead of forcing me."
"The way you react to your boss. Does it help?
A little angry, he replied:
"Of course not! That's why I feel like I'm on the verge of a burnout. I'm not the problem. My boss is. If I could stop it, I would do it immediately."
"What do you think is going on in his head when that happens? Do you think your boss wakes up in the morning and says to himself, "Today I will be an asshole and annoy David?"
David laughed, "Well, that's hard to imagine."
I went on.
"Every time he comes into your office, your boss knows, you're going to tell him he's wrong one way or another. You're literally teaching him. He knows that you will disagree and have a different opinion. And because of the new structure he officially can no longer give you orders anymore. That pisses him off. He might even feel helpless. Do you think he likes that?"
After a minute of silence, David started.
"Probably not. And yes. He still thinks and acts in the old structure. But I see where you are coming from.”
"So let's figure out how you can change that. Let's try to find a way to work with your boss. O.k.?"
"What would happen if you did something different? Instead of lecturing him?"
"What do you mean?
"What if instead of contradict him, you ask him an open question?
No question where he has to decide. And not an insult disguised as a question. Try a question that opens him up in a nice way. It seems that you are thinking further ahead than him. What would you like to know? I don't know anything about your stuff, for example: Bob, what are your criteria’s saying that the low-temperature solution is a success?"
I could see a gleam in David's eyes.
"I'd be interested if he has finished the preparations. Usually we have to wait for his drawings in order to start. That's his homework."
"What if you say that you agree that it is important for the company, especially for such an important customer? You are willing to help. And since you only have one shot to fix it, you don't want to screw things up. That's the goal of both of you.
Remind him of your responsibility as leaders to the company. And it distracts your two egos from each other. In other words, before you get involved with his demand, you nicely ask him for more details. Because that is the basis for your work.
At this point, you must fill it with your words."
David formulated all sorts of questions to Bob and started thinking out loud about the effects, or possible reactions.
A brief role-play followed in which David worked on his formulations.
Does that feel different to you now," I asked him.
"Yes. Quite different. It feels more like an objective conversation between colleagues." David's face softened and the initial tension left.
Nodding and smiling I asked him: "Do you want to try that next time?
After a second he smiled back. "He'll probably be amazed because he expects me to contradict."
It didn't take long until David had the opportunity to try. The very next day his boss came by again on his assignment.
Instantly his boss started to ask for progress in a sharp tone.
"David - what do you have for me?"