Being an Oxymoron


By Morag Barrett on August 4, 2015

Posted by Morag Barrett | August 4, 2015Being an OxymoronIt had been an interesting day working with a new project team. The day had begun with group of individuals who were finger-pointing and apportioning blame as to why the project was at risk. To say it was tense was an understatement. By the end of the high performing team session the situation had transformed. A successful day all round. Decisions had been made, roles and responsibilities clarified, relationships were healing and there was a clear plan to get the project and more importantly, this project leadership team back on track.I was meeting with the team leader to debrief the day and provide individual executive coaching on her next steps when she turned to me and saidYou’re the most laid-back-competitive person I’ve ever met.”I laughed, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”[ox.y.mo.ron – a figure of speech which appears self-contradictory, e.g. ‘open secret’, ‘icy hot’ or ‘deafening silence’.]No, listen” she replied “it’s apparent that you set high standards for you and your team, it’s what made today so successful. I was worried going into the session that the conversations that we needed to have as a team were going to do more damage than good. I know we needed to do it, but didn’t have the courage and vulnerability you describe in ‘Cultivate’ to do this on my own. You guided us through the process.“OK, but how does that make me laid-back-competitive?” I askedThe high standards, continuously raising the bar, that’s the competitive bit, you compete against yourself. But the way you model that behavior is different to what I have seen others do, that’s where the laid-back comes in. You don’t knock others down, even in the team session, in the coaching with me, you have a canny ability to get to the root of the problem, you cause us to take a hard look at how we can improve our performance, but you don’t make us feel foolish or stupid for allowing the team to get to the point it was this morning. Today was a great example, you did this with us, not to us. It makes it safe for us to demonstrate courage and vulnerability and to engage in the candor and debate needed to build a team of allies.”There you have it. I’m laid-back-competitive. Which oxymoron describes you?Related ArticlesTags »communicationEmotional Intelligenceleadership development denver Share
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