I recently observed a scene play out that had all too familiar themes from the world of work.
A person came out to speak to a team member and handed over a document asking for some work to be done. The team member grabbed the document and screamed, “You know I finish work at 5, you always do this to me” and then stormed off leaving a bewildered person standing, holding the offending document. Another team member leapt to their defence and in an irritated tone said, “Now look what you have done” and rushed off to provide comfort to the person who had stormed off. The bearer of the document tentatively put it on the desk and sheepishly exited stage left.
The dynamics at play in this situation and others like this is that all of the players were operating from either a mode of parent or child, neither of these modes is appropriate in a professional context.*
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The one thing that your team really needs from you is to show up fully as an adult.
This can be harder to do than we imagine – because we are human. We all fall into the trap of oscillating between the modes of parent and child and have to consciously step up into the mode of adult.
When we are in parent mode, we fix, placate, negotiate and sometimes plead. In child mode, we can be destructive, whinging and petulant. None of which is helpful, productive or acceptable in a professional environment.
A recent McKinsey & Company article (‘When to change how you lead’) posed the question: Is leadership timeless? It’s a fabulous question with some insightful commentary by the author and contributors of the article. What I would like to add to this discussion is the timeless aspect of who we are as people and how we show up.
Humanity may have grown over the time in technology and evolved in thinking; however, one aspect remains the same. We are still impacted by human behaviours, still challenged by having to manage them and having to deal with the less than desirable behaviours of others.
We make a mess every day to varying degrees of messiness and sometimes what’s required is for us to just put our big girl/boy pants on, to grow up and step up into our adult selves and lead, contribute and interact in adult mode. Life’s work for all of us!
In the same way that there is a shelf life for blaming our parents for our lives (JK Rowling – Harvard commencement speech), there is a shelf life for allowing our past upsets, triggers and buttons to impact our behaviours today. We all experience this to varying degrees and it’s our responsibility to work through these and self-manage our behaviour. There is an abundance of support to help us to do this: psychology, counselling, coaching or talking to a trusted friend. If the triggers stem from a place of deeper upset or trauma then I encourage you to seek professional support and guidance to help you move forward.
My invitation today is that for the rest of the week take time to observe your reactions, responses and behaviour and determine which mode you are operating from. If it’s from a place of child or parent, switch back into adult mode as quickly as you can. Observe the difference this makes.
*The parent–adult–child ego state model was designed by Dr Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis in the late 1950s.
Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian-based coaching and training company.