Being suddenly thrown under the proverbial bus is one of the worst feelings there is in a working relationship. It’s the sense of being betrayed by someone that you likely had some level of trust built with for their own gain. Perhaps you were blamed for something that you didn’t do, or they broke your confidence to share sensitive info, or perhaps they embarrassed you in front of others to make themselves look better. Whatever the reason, you’ve likely experienced it a time or two or you will most certainly experience it as you continue your professional journey.
You’ve been thrown under the bus, now what?
The thing about being thrown under the bus is that it always comes unexpectedly and suddenly. Perhaps you align with your work partner only for them to say that they totally disagree with your position after reading the room. That initial sting can send you swirling in many different mental directions at one time.
In the moment:
Let your EQ save you: This is another great work example where a strong EQ (EQ series starting at Ep 145) will swoop in and save you from any further damage. Do your best to instantly react, especially in a public setting. Let the emotions wash through you and then begin to react in a way that reflects well on you. In some situations, you may only have a few seconds while other times, you’ll have more than enough time.
Save face by taking the high road. It’s ok to say that whatever the other person said or did was a surprise to you and that you need some time to process and reflect. Offering the take the conversation offline in a meeting environment can take the heat off for now and keep the meeting moving forward as well.
After the incident:
Accept that this has happened and move forward: It can be hard to obsess about the incident… besides, you’ve likely been wronged and it can feel very personal as you continue to unpack in your mind how everything unfolded. At the end of the day, there is nothing that can be done to take the incident back. It happened. Mentally acknowledge that it happened, remind yourself that it does not lower the value that you see in yourself as a person, and begin to move to the next steps for closure and growth.
Get to the truth and root of the incident: Instead, of trying to find solace and validation with others, approach the other person who threw you under the bus after the incident and ask what happened. It’s fair for you to seek clarity and understanding of the reasoning behind their decision. Be mentally prepared because this conversation can go many different ways:
They may reveal their true colors and were never an ally to begin with
They may have acted impulsively and are regretful
They may not have the self-awareness to even realize what they did was wrong and hurtful
Don’t retaliate: It may be tempting to volley back resentment and anger or even worse, plot your revenge against the other person. Remember your values (EP 357 EP 358) and avoid this at all costs. You’ll have more productive ways to deal with the person based on the things that you learned from the experience.
Learn and grow from the experience
The shock of a break in trust can be difficult to overcome, in fact, it’s one of our highest searched subjects on the internet. Trust is certainly one of the lessons that I learn during the times that someone has thrown me under the bus – specifically how far my trust can go with the other person going forward. I would rarely fully write the person off, but I certainly reframed the relationship and became much more mindful of what I said or did around the person.
I’ve had others share with me that the lesson that they learned is that they trusted others too much. While I get where the person is coming from with this kind of statement, my experience has shown me that that kind of attitude and become the building block to a fundamental change in their leadership behavior in a negative way. You can’t stop trusting others because you’ve been burned.
Another way to gain insight from being thrown under the bus is to reflect back and understand some of the behaviors that may have been indicators that the person was capable of what they did. Some of those include:
Trying to take credit for things that they did not do
A lack of reciprocating information about themselves
A lack of showing vulnerability in their role
Statements like “It’s not personal”
Being thrown under the bus is never fun and can really hurt, especially if it comes from a friend or close colleague. Represent yourself well during the stinging moment, seek clarity, learn from the incident and move forward. You’ll build a character trait that will serve you well as you continue on your professional journey.
The journey to becoming more inclusive is so rewarding on a personal level. There is personal joy and satisfaction as you see yourself grow and mature and this area is typically ripe for personal and professional growth.
Today we are going to focus on actions that you can take as an individual and as a team to ensure that everyone feels valued and has a voice, feel valued, and want to stay around for a long time.
Actions to take as an inclusive leader
It’s hard to have an inclusive team if you are an inclusive leader yourself. Even if you are that type of leader, your leadership will fall flat unless others see, feel, and understand it from you. Here are some personal actions to take as an inclusive leader.
Seek out differences. Curiosity is a trait that many organizations look for in great leaders. It shows that they have a growth mindset and are unlikely to fall into a sense of arrival in their career. Curiosity also lowers overall risk across the leadership board. Get to know those that are on the edge of your network. Spend time with those that you interact with quite a bit, but don’t know so well. Look for the quiet ones in the room and take time to understand their perspective. Seek out individuals that are different that you to gain a larger worldview.
Be present and tell your story. To lead a potentially large change, you need to be present in that change. You’ll gain more buy-in from those that you are looking to convince if they see that you are invested and involved yourself. Tell a compelling story and why it is important to you. Share the impact that your own personal journey has had on you and share the success stories of others (If they are ok with that) to help others see the vision.
Understand your own inclusive shadow. Being an inclusive leader holds little value if you are the only one that thinks you are inclusive. Seek feedback from those that are different from you in their opinion. Do they see you as an advocate and supporter? Check-in with those that you trust and value as well. Doing this helps you find those blind spots that you have. It’s like you are both underestimating and overestimating different parts of how you lead yourself and others.
Learn your impact. At the end of the day, what is your impact on others? Are you being emulated by others? Do you see some effort or behavior change that you didn’t see before? Are you being welcomed into more diverse groups that you were not previously a part of? Are people looking for your direction when it comes to inclusion? Seek a mentor or advisor on who to keep improving.
Whether you are trying to change a small team or a very complex organization, you are more of an influence than you often give yourself credit for. Strengthen your own leadership skills in this area, so that you can lift others up.
Actions to take as an inclusive team and organization
Thinking about your current state around inclusion may be daunting as you think about future possibilities. Start small. Here are some actions that you can take to help your people, team, and organization be more inclusive.
Recognize that it is a journey, not a race. When you tackle inclusion, you are taking others through a journey where they likely will need to challenge their own biases and self-awareness. That’s a huge change in and of itself, without even considering the programmatic, and potential policy changes that need to be made. Keep at it and don’t get discouraged by early setbacks.
Include the most impactful leaders. Many people automatically assume that the top leaders are the most impactful. They are in terms of strategy, but your middle managers are the ones that bring that strategy to life. Prioritize these leaders as you begin the journey. Include them in the process and leverage this group for advocates and early adopters. This will increase your likelihood of lasting change and accelerate your efforts toward your goal.
Leverage data to tell your story. I absolutely love using data to tell the story of what the opportunity is and to celebrate the progress that has been made around an issue. Leaders can often rely on their perception or feelings when it comes to inclusion, “I feel like we are a pretty inclusive group and everyone is treated the same and welcome.” Dig in and gather data on the current state of the team. The data will often write the story itself around what the opportunities are. Be sure to listen to the show today for some examples of how to leverage data in a real way when storytelling.
Pay attention to diverse associates and customers. Your diverse population has a higher likelihood of leaving the team when they don’t feel like they belong and are being heard. Tap into their life experience and their professional experience in the organization to understand what some of those nuanced and obvious points are that the group needs to work on. Also including them on the journey assures them that you aren’t simply paying lip service to change, but that you are truly invested in a new future together.
Being a more inclusive leader has several benefits. You’ll be a more effective leader, the legacy you leave behind will be stronger and your company will be more relevant and profitable as a result. Take the steps today to help others become wildly successful in their roles.
The strongest people in life are the ones that are comfortable saying ‘I don’t know. -Patrick Lencioni
As a young boy growing up in the ’80s and ’90s there were plenty of heroes for kids to latch on to and look up to for leadership. While there were great leaders like Princess Leia, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, or even Optimus Prime, there was a lot of strength exhibited, but not too much vulnerability.
Today, employees and customers are demanding transparency from organizations and leaders alike. Portraying an exaggerated level of strength and power will not connect in a lasting way. Leaders and companies can longer hide behind policies and procedures without relational consequences from others.
So how should we leverage vulnerability in a way that feels real and authentic without giving everything away?
What is Vulnerability in leadership?
Brene Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” It doesn’t mean that you have to immediately lay all your transgressions, personal failings, and fears out there for all to see. It does mean that you should let others see those moments when appropriate. It’s letting people you see authentically navigate uncertainty. It’s exposing some emotion to let people see that you are real. It’s installing trust and taking a risk by sharing things about yourself and what you are going through. Vulnerability is about being true to yourself and allowing another person to see into your personal journey.
How vulnerability impacts your life and those around you
Vulnerability is a sought out trait in personal and professional relationships. Here are some ways that it can impact you.
It can help lower turnover at work: People desire purpose and connectivity in the work that they do. (PTB 312: 4 ways to find purpose in work) The stronger the emotional tie that the employee has with their work, the less likely it is that they are going to go somewhere else. Leaning into your vulnerability furthers your connection with other employees in a meaningful way. Vulnerability makes it less about you and more about others, giving them a chance to shine and be recognized for their hard work.
It paves the way for authentic relationships: Think about the relationships that you have that are deeper than a “How are you?” Most likely they are meaningful to you because they feel real. They are authentic. Vulnerability paves the way for those long-lasting authentic relationships. It’s really difficult for relationships to care deep meaning if there isn’t some layer of vulnerability being shown from both parties.
It fast-tracks trust: Lots of companies exist with the sole purpose of providing teams and companies bonding experiences to build trust. A healthy level of vulnerability can fast-track trust just as quickly as a high ropes course or trust fall exercise. Being vulnerable with others shows them that there is a safe place to store their trust in you.
It breaks down barriers to innovation and creativity: Both innovation and creativity can be a fickle and challenging thing to manifest in a team environment. You can make distractions and barriers smaller by being vulnerable and authentic with others. When you admit your mistakes and acknowledge that you don’t hold all the answers, it allows others to step in a new and exciting way. Leveraging vulnerability as a strength also helps you acknowledge others’ achievements and take your ego out of the equation. This of course only helps fuel more creativity.
Tips to be more vulnerable with others
Being vulnerable to others can be difficult. Putting up a proverbial shield around yourself can make you feel protected. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. You may be unknowingly singling yourself out in a bad way from your peers and from the team that you serve. As competition heats up in business and in keeping great talent, it’s important to take small steps in order to be more vulnerable to others.
Don’t take yourself too seriously: Whether you are stepping into a new role, or a new company it can be tempting to try to impress everyone. Drop the veil of perfection and let your guard down a little bit with others. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others. Have a great time while celebrating with others.
Share your personal journey with others: Hopefully, you have a good sense of the personal areas that you need to work on to grow as a person and leader. If you don’t, ask your team, they certainly know what those areas are! Even though they know your growth areas, it’s important for you to share those with others and tell them about your path to growth. It show’s your awareness of the topic and your willingness to discuss those with others will create a stronger personal bond.
Admit your mistakes and check the ego: Easy to say and often harder to do, admitting to your mistakes with others is an important part of being vulnerable. It also helps keep your ego in check as well. If you struggle here, start small and keep yourself accountable as you grow to own up to larger mistakes.
Continue to self-educate: A phrase my team uses often is “self-educate” This typically happens when one of us admits that we don’t know the answer yet to a challenge, but we commit to learning more and landing a positive outcome. I use this phrase just as much as everyone else! Acknowledge your knowledge limits and then be proactive in growing and learning. Something new and positive has always come out of the other end of one of these statements for us.
Great leaders understand the power of vulnerability. That leverage that power, without manipulating it, to grow personal relationships, builds trust and long-term buy-in from their team, and helps themselves stand out from the competition. Be a servant leader that is vulnerable in your daily walk in order to lift others up.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was open to feedback, thankful for the insight, and then acted on the information in an impactful way? Leadership certainly would be easier, but unfortunately, that’s not the reality that the majority of us face when giving feedback to teams. People come with various levels of baggage and history that impact how they receive feedback. Some cry, some yell, and others try to avoid it altogether.
Before jumping into a feedback session, think about the person and how they likely will react to the information. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally, latch on to your Why, and have the conversation in a neutral, distraction-free place.
For those that have a tendency to cry
It can be easy to get frustrated or distracted when the other person consistently cries when they receive feedback. There are a number of reasons why someone reacts in this way ranging from low self-esteem to feeling like a personal failure when not meeting expectations. Regardless of the reasoning behind a crying reaction, your message still needs to be delivered, even when it makes you uncomfortable.
Be prepared for a follow-up meeting if the person needs to calm down. Pushing through the conversation carries little value for either party.
Assure the person that you have their best interest at heart. Just because a message may be hard, doesn’t mean that your delivery has to be. Approach with care and empathy while sticking to your standard.
Acknowledge the emotion in the room. Leaders sometimes want to ignore the emotion and continue on in the conversation, because of their own annoyance or uncomfortably. Take a moment to acknowledge them, and frame up the why behind the conversation before carrying on.
Be on the lookout for people that cry during feedback that don’t normally do so. It’s often a sign that something bigger is going on with the person either personally or professionally.
For those that yell
Sometimes people respond to feedback by yelling and becoming aggressive verbally and even physically. These people can be hard to coach for a couple of reasons. Either A) You have lower managerial courage (PTB 81) and you tend to avoid these types of conversations or B) You aren’t intimidated and will volley back fire with fire. Both have major pitfalls when it comes to feedback; the first lets the problem continue to fester and the second one only validates the reason for the other person’s anger.
Your winning approach here is to stay calm. Stay calm and collected even when your heart may be pounding out of your chest. Lower your voice as they raise theirs. They’ll have to lower theirs as well in order to hear you.
Call out poor behavior as you see it. “I need you to lower the volume of your voice.”
Let the other person know your expectations and be willing to cut the conversation if they can’t control themselves. “This is not productive and we can’t continue the conversation like this. Take a moment for yourself here or we will need to reschedule this.”
Hold to your standard without matching their level of anger.
For those that are defensive
Have you noticed how those that are the most defensive are also the most critical of others? Often rooted in low self-esteem, these people may feel humiliated, degraded, embarrassed, or exposed by your feedback and constructive criticism. The key here is to not let the person slip through the conversation without being accountable for the change needed.
The person may very try to deflect the conversation in a different direction. “You don’t know everything that is going on”, or “This is X person’s fault.” Not only are they deflecting responsibility, but they also want to engage in their statements to change the focus of the conversation.
Put a spotlight on accountability. “I see this as your responsibility.” Highlight their role in the situation.
When they play the victim, ask them about what role they could have played to impact the outcome.
Address the recurring behavior
Now that we know how to address these main blockers to constructive feedback, should we put these practices in place and move on? Of course not! If you have someone that consistently exhibits one of these reactions to feedback, have a session on that behavior itself. “I notice every time that I give you feedback, you react in ______ way. I want the best for you, and I know that you do as well. How can we connect on feedback in a way that is more open?” Next, explain your expectations for how they need to do their part in accepting feedback.
Help the situation by providing feedback in smaller amounts instead of letting it build up and keeping the conversation as close to the occurrence as possible.
Your people need feedback in order to improve and reach their fullest potential. Address the criers, yellers, and avoiders in a way that hits home for them so you can give feedback that is processed in a positive way.
Tough conversations are…well.. tough. It’s certainly not the most enviable part of being a leader, but it’s certainly a differentiator between an ok manager and a leader worth following. A great leader doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations, but at the same time isn’t confrontational enough to create unneeded drama in the workplace. They have the conversations that need to be had with positive intent that benefits the individual and the team.
Here are some things to remember as you step up to tough conversations.
Seek feedback, discuss the situation, and bounce ideas of approach off of your trusted advisors, and mentors. They may be able to fill in a perspective that you haven’t considered or give you valuable feedback on your approach or intentions.
Many organizations also have HR support, either as a generalist or someone that specifically works with employee issues. Be sure to partner with these groups for guidance. They can help to ensure that you are good from a legal and best practice perspective.
Go in with a plan
No matter your level of comfortability with improvisation when speaking to others, always plan through the key points that you want to share when having a difficult conversation with others.
Here is a real way that a tough conversation can go if you head into the interaction with the “I’m just going to wing it” mentality.
You begin the conversation, it meanders a bit and you miss one of the key points of the conversation.
The person responds in a way that you hadn’t considered and you improvise some more. This takes you further off course.
The other person reacts to the change in direction.
Now you react again to the other person, further taking you off-topic.
Rinse and repeat the back and forth.
By the end, you are both at your wit’s end. You’ve only further eroded the relationship and can’t realistically expect any kind of behavior change from the person, because they haven’t accepted the feedback that you wanted to give.
Not ideal! You’ve likely seen that conversation play out several different ways in both your personal and professional life. You don’t necessarily have to have a script for every conversation, but you should always have a plan:
What are the key points that you want to get across?
What is the impact of the reason for the meeting?
What time frame do they need to correct the behavior or action?
What is the best place or environment to have the conversation?
What are some ways that they may react? Are you mentally prepared for those reactions?
Acknowledge your feelings
We have experience feelings leading up to and during those difficult conversations. It’s likely that you are frustrated, disappointed, or even angry with the person and the decisions that led to a need for a tough conversation. Take time to acknowledge those and process them as you prepare for that talk with the other person.
You may be given the advice to “shut down” your emotions and just plow through the conversation with the other person. (A just do it mentality) Sure, you may be able to navigate a conversation this way, but you’re less likely to come out on the other side of the interaction in a way that truly adds value to others.
Instead of shutting off all emotions and coming across as cold and uncaring, lean into your emotional intelligence skills in order to acknowledge both your and the other person’s emotions without letting emotions run rampant over the reason for the conversation.
Be honest and give feedback. It’s okay to be assertive and to the point. “When you _____activity_____ I get/feel/become ____emotion_____. I need ________ going forward. I wanted you to know this because__________ (It impacts my work and I want to have a good relationship with you, I care about you, I want us both to do well, etc)
It’s ok to be nervous or to have butterflies in your stomach before a difficult conversation. Acknowledge them, remember your plan and partnerships with others that have supported you up until this moment. Go into the conversation with positive intent while showcasing your strong emotional intelligence and empathy skills. The other person will be better equipped with proper expectations and you’ll be strengthening your own leadership qualities in the process.