True Story - Part 3

My way or the highway 1 panorama - My way or the highway - 3

David got a little nervous. Inside he took a deep breath.
"Hey, Bob, glad you're here. I started some basic thoughts about it. But then I realized I hadn't asked you about that."

David pointed to the drawings on the table. As he walked over he continued, "I need your opinion on where the best place for the heating elements in this assembly unit might be."


His boss listened.


David continued, "It's crucial. I would put them here. What do you think? You also know this assembly very well. Can you provide me with the detail drawings for your assembly unit?"


Slowly Bob came closer and leaned forward. A technical discussion started.


David went through his "script" hoping to say everything in the right order. He explained in detail and calmly why the input of his boss mattered so much.


David's boss nodded and said at the end: "I think it takes two hours until I have these drawings. How are you available for the rest of the discussion today?"


After agreeing on the next meeting, Bob left David's office. David was relieved and surprised. That wasn't what he expected.


Before you read what, David told me after this new meeting, let’s recap.


What David was dealing with is a very typical situation in our work life. Almost all of us have had a confrontational boss or colleague. It doesn't matter at which level you are. Right?


As hard as it may be, even bosses are only people with their own beliefs and patterns.


There is always a reason why they behave that way. Especially when times are changing and change is around the corner. But that’s a different story. (new story/ article about “irrelevance”).



David’s journey is almost over. Before you read how it ends, let us quickly cover how you can handle such co-worker’s or bosses.


Here are just three steps I want to give you for a confronting/dominant boss or employee:


Number one: Recognize your feelings.

Allow them, don't let them take control. What does that mean? Be concise about your own feelings. Don't act them out.


Be able to recognize them, to feel how you feel. Take a deep breath and avoid them bursting out of you. Otherwise, a new world war may unfold.


Ask yourself instead:

How would I like to feel the next time I meet a boss like that? More relaxed, open-minded and calm? If you allow yourself to get angrier or more intimidated, it keeps you from thinking rationally.


Try to shift your focus. Ask yourself. How would I look back in a year? Would I still take that so seriously? Or rather laugh about it?


If you allow yourself to just keep getting angrier or intimidated, it holds you back from rational thinking. Leaders like you need a clear mind.


  • What do my boss and I have in common?
  • What are we here for?
  • Why did the company hire us?
  • What helps to solve this problem?


Number two - instead of confronting them - ask them open questions.

An open question is a question that cannot be answered with a single yes or no.


These kinds of questions lead to conflicts.

  • Do you think I am crazy?
  • Do you think this is my biggest problem?
  • What makes you so ...?


Instead, ask questions with

  • how,
  • where,
  • when,
  • why.


In the example of David:


  • Bob. When would you say the solution was successful?
  • How can you help speed things up?
  • How can we find the best solution?
  • Who are the experts we need to fix this?
  • Is there anything else we should consider like ...?


Then you can repeat in your own words what the other said in your own words. "So, what I have understood so far, ..."

You show respect because you listen and other leadership qualities in a very elegant way.


Number three - when they answer, try to follow up with another question


Follow up with another question starting with.

"Let's work together to resolve this in the best, most efficient way we can." Then place your question. So, you can turn conversations from one against the other, into a of a we-kind of a partnership.


With a different mind-set on your side, you turn the inner dialogue around for both of you.


Prior to the coaching, David's inner dialogue was like this: "Bob always tries to stress me with junk and control me."


It changed during the coaching:

"This guy needs my help and I'm the nice guy who's willing to help him."



A few weeks later I saw David again in the gym.

He looked like his old self. When we were chatted, I asked him how things worked out with his boss.


With big, open eyes he said: "At first it felt really weird, to be honest. It was hard for me to stay calm because I felt nervous. You know. Normally - he punched his fist in the palm of his hand. But I thought to myself: Try to get more information before we both freak out again.


I could see that it surprised my boss when I asked him a question because I was sure he was expecting a back-talk. After we talked about it, I had one or two more questions. I recalled what we had worked out regarding my inner dialogue.


We met again and together we developed a plan how this could be implemented in time. He came back with well-prepared drawings. I could use them with no modifications. We agreed on electric heating modules to heat the valves faster. 


When we talked about the details, he also realized that it really wasn't that time-critical. And that we need enough time to test everything properly. It was the first time after a meeting that he didn't stomp out of my office and was offended. Which is much better - I think he feels more involved now - and I have my peace."


David looked at me with a calm smile.


It was great to see him like this.


After four weeks we met again at the gym.


With a deeply pained look in his eyes, David came over. He tried to start with a sarcastic joke. But he missed the punch line.


With narrowed eyes, I looked at him.

“David- what’s wrong?”


Then it burst out of him.

“You know what Bob did?! He started to sell our new idea as his ideas in front of the management. I got nuts because my team developed the crucial point. We have to talk about that too. Do you have time after the workout?”


How David solved this issue, I will tell you in my newsletter.



If you like to learn more techniques to be a better and happier leader ...

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