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The Other Chair.

You could tell he was upset.  The urgency of his voice when he called was the first sign.  Then I could see the signs as I watched him walk towards me, the stiffness of his shoulders and the expression on his face.

As we sat down, he thanked me for taking time to meet with him.  I thanked him for reaching out and taking me up on my “open door” policy and commitment to help my team be successful.  He was a bright, take charge person that liked a challenge and exploring new ways to get things done.  He was involved in a major initiative to transform the business and had hit a roadblock.

I listened as he explained the situation.  He reviewed the project plan, the major milestones and gave context to the impasse.  I asked questions to slow the conversation down and to bring clarity.  It allowed us to dive deeper into the situation.  To him, the next steps were so clear and he was frustrated that others didn’t see it.  And in some cases, he felt that others were abandoning the work.

We spent our time talking about WHY this may be happening.  It was a big change and the impact was starting to show up.  Although the project plan outlined the change process, it couldn’t predict everything.  We talked about sometimes, slowing down to ensure you bring everyone along is important too.

other chair leadership concept

     I asked him if he sat in the “other chair?”



He looked at me with a question on his face.  As a project lead, it is easy to see things from only one perspective.  Sitting in the chair of others lets you see it from their perspective.  Each side will ask questions based on their perspective.   And at times, they can appear to be selfish, not supportive or counterproductive.  But they are really important questions.  The answers help bring understanding to an issue so individuals can help the overall mission.   Without a PERSONAL understanding FIRST, change efforts cannot be supported globally.

We talked about how this might be the case here.  We identified where the work needed to be done to have the right conversations and gain a better understanding.  I could see his broader understanding gaining traction.  He left my office with the commitment to follow up with me at the end of the week.

On Friday, when I turned the corner to enter my office, I could see the furniture had been rearranged and something added.  A sign “the other chair” was taped to the back of the chair and a thank you note was on the seat.  It had been 3 days since we talked, and the project was back on track.

Sometimes taking a break and changing your view can give you the perspective to break the log jam.



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