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A Leader’s Guide to Effective Dialogue Under Pressure

Source | | David Maxfield

How can managers become measurably more effective? To answer this question, I studied crucial moments. I wondered in moments when the stakes are high, and the pressure is on, do managers remain calm, candid, direct, and willing to listen? Or do their direct reports describe them as angry, closed-minded, rejecting, even devious? And, how does either style affect results and relationships?

My research confirms a manager’s style under stress has a disproportionate effect on their personal influence and their people. And yet, my study of 1,300 employees found that one out of three leaders are seen as someone who fails to engage in dialogue when the stakes grow high. Specifically:

  • 53 percent of leaders are more closed-minded and controlling than open and curious.
  • 45 percent are more upset and emotional than calm and in control.
  • 45 percent ignore or reject rather than listen or seek to understand.
  • 43 percent are more angry and heated than cool and collected.

And it turns out this type of response does more than harm a leader’s personal influence—it also hurts the team. When a leader clams up or blows up, team members have lower morale; are more likely to miss deadlines, budgets, and quality standards; and act in ways that drive customers away. They are also more likely to consider leaving their job, stop participating, and get frustrated and angry.

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