with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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This week, we’re going to talk all about Reframing Difficult Situations to focus on growth and success.

I had a client who wasn't getting her way in a series of meetings – one could say she was being owned. A lot of the internal customers (ie. her stakeholders), were demanding an enormous amount of her. It didn't seem fair, but she just wasn't getting any traction; they weren't listening, and she didn't have any influence. The challenge there for her was a complete lack of trust.

After working through it with her, we worked out that the reason she was having difficulty was because she was speaking first; she was wanting to be heard, rather than seeking to understand. In the meetings, the way she was framing things was to get her outcome or to make them buy into what she was doing.

We were able to reframe meetings in her head so she thought about them differently, namely as two things: 1) to serve her customer, and 2) to build trust. What this meant was focus shifted immediately from what she wanted, and on to her customer. Secondly, the words that flowed from her mouth, the questions she asked and the way she described things, were all aligned to the focus of her internal customer. Her emotion calmed right down, she was far more present, and she had a lot more gravitas in the moment because she was doing the right thing for her customer by simply seeking to understand what was happening. And lastly, the outcome was amazing. All of a sudden there was a lot more trust, a lot more equal flow of information coming her way because reciprocity started to play out as time went on.

Another example of reframing difficult situations was when I was working with the CEO of a recruitment business, and he said to me one day, “I've got a really difficult conversation coming up this afternoon with a member of my staff who I have to let go. She's just not performing and we tried to get her cracking, but it's not happening. This is last straw, but mate, she's a wonderful woman, and I'm just not really sure how to go about this particular conversation.”

In his mind, he was framing this as a really difficult conversation with someone that he cared about. There was going be a lot of pain, and so immediately, the focus was on the pain and the emotion. He was really going to battle to get the words out of his mouth. The emotion was going to be heavy and the outcome was probably not going to be great.

So we reframed two things in his mind: Firstly, his decision was going to be the very best thing for her as she probably needed a career change, and being in this business right now was not the best thing for her. In his heart-of-hearts, he knew that; in her heart-of-hearts, she knew that as well.

The second thing is the longer-term focus for her in the business. The very best thing at that point in time was to part ways. So what we focused on in the reframing exercise was for him to say something like, “Let's make a move that's best for everybody.” It totally changed everything he was talking about. The focus now changed on getting a great outcome for her, getting a great outcome for the business. The words flowed from his mouth and he asked the following kind of questions: “What do you think is the next best thing for you?” “What is your next career move? What's your dream job? How can we help you achieve that?” The emotion, while still not easy, was a lot less painful for both of them and the outcome was fantastic. She actually said, “Thank you.” Being in recruitment, he knew people, and in the end, he helped her get a wonderful new job.

So the art here is to reframe, think positively about what is the outcome you want. If you're in a difficult situation, what you're generally focusing on is the negative. What I want you to think about is the positive outcome you're trying to achieve. What do you really want? What's great for you? What's great for the other people involved? How can you reframe this particular conversation or this particular meeting in a way that gets a fantastic result for everyone?

Stay epic,