I ate in a London pub with a group once, and the server made a mistake when calculating the bill. Unfortunately, he didn’t believe us, and our argument kept escalating. I got a little, um, animated myself. He was in the wrong (I have witnesses), but now he had a service issue with an obviously upset customer, so he pulled out the “last resort” at his disposal:
“What do you want me to do? Exactly?”
Great question. Calmed me down and gave me the chance to stop listing facts, numbers, and the order of events, and simply say:
“Acknowledge that Daniel has paid, and stop trying to charge him twice.”
The server did a lot of slamming around of change and drawers, and told us never to come back, but Daniel was spared being double-charged.
Not a leadership situation, but it can be adapted– and has been:
At points of exasperation, when you’re temped to escalate or argue, why not stop and ask:
“What do you need that you’re not getting?”
Answers to that could surprise you, help you, and allow you to serve your follower with less tension and greater speed. Also- and this is big – it can reinforce the connection between you. You are seeking the chance to MEET NEEDS, which is your ultimate responsibility as a leader.
Real-world answers to that question that I’ve heard or heard about:
“respect from you”
“a more comfortable chair”
“for Brenda to be fired”
“for people to stop taking my equipment bag without asking”
Sometimes you can satisfy the reasonable request; sometimes the answer is real, but unrelated to the original topic; sometimes the request is laughably unreasonable (you CAN’T fire someone at someone else’s request – that doesn’t actually meet the needs of the organization. usually.); BUT
You’ve gotten to the bottom of things to a greater extent, you’ve shown concern for needs, you’ve slowed things down, and you’re closer to solving the problem and getting back to work.
What do YOU need that you’re not getting?