A Coaching Power Tool Created by William Feng
(Career and Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES)
…I started to realize how many great things could happen by confronting the things that scare you most.- David Archuleta, Chords of Strength: A Memoir of Soul, Song and the Power of Perseverance
I chose to Confront Reality vs. Passive Aggression because this is a tool I can use for myself as a coach and manager. This tool was created and inspired by one of the ICA power tools, Truth vs. Fraud. Being true to ourselves is usually the first step to understand our own strengths, weaknesses, thinking, feeling, and behaviours. Without this truth, we will not be able to get better or change. Without this truth, we will be living in a fantasy.
This is a similar construct to “confront reality”. Without confronting reality, we will be lying to ourselves. Accountability and the courage to confront reality is a common thing that most gets in the way of clients achieving the goals. From my experience as a coach, it’s relatively easy for clients to set goals and get excited about the new goals they set; however, it’s really hard to face the truth that the goals have not been achieved because of fear of failure. When failure happens, we make lots of excuses instead of confronting ourselves and learning from the situation.
Confronting reality is not something that comes easily for leaders. The reason is, confronting reality usually means there is an issue or problem, including but not limited to…
- Things are not going as expected in your team and/or organization
- There is a performance issue that is not being addressed
- A lingering problem or conflict not being resolved
- And more…...
The interesting thing is that whether you confront reality or not, it’s still real. It will not go away. One has to actively tackle this reality or problem in order for it to go away. As a leader, it takes a lot of courage and be comfortable stepping outside the comfort zone to confront reality on the team or in the organization. Whether it’s a team performance issue or larger organizational culture issue, the leader has to address it head-on. When you confront reality, you will start leading.
Passive aggressive behaviour is defined by the dictionary as of or denoting a type of behaviour or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation, as in procrastinating, pouting, or misplacing important materials.
Passive-aggressive behaviour can be intensely frustrating for the recipients because it’s hard to identify, difficult to prove, and may even be unintentional. Instead of getting overtly angry, people with passive aggression express their hostility in ways designed to hurt or confuse the recipients.
Passive aggression can lead to more conflict and intimacy issues because many people struggle to have a direct and honest conversation about the problem at hand. While passive-aggressive behaviour can be difficult to pin down, the most common signs include refusing to discuss problems openly and directly (e.g., silent treatment), avoiding responsibility, and being deliberately inefficient.
When someone often leaves a job undone, runs late, and/or says yes but did not complete the action, these are signs for passive-aggression. In the next section, we will go over details on how to turn passive aggression to confront reality.
Turning Passive Aggression to Confront Reality
To turn passive aggression to confront reality, one must confront his or her own reality, to face the truth, and to do something about it instead of living in a bubble of false reality full of excuses, or covertly resistant to change. (i.e., not facing the truth). This takes courage and honesty to oneself. This is the only way to solve a real problem from the root cause instead from the symptoms.
For example, I managed a learning function at a global company where building relationships with different centre leads were of the utmost importance. I was close to several centre leads who were advocates of growth and development. There was one lead who prioritized profits over employee learning. Often times, it’s impossible to schedule meetings about learning with the centre lead as he never accepted the meeting and did not want learnings to be a part of the centre strategy. After a few tries over a few months, I told myself that I would let him loose and focus my energy somewhere else. This did a disservice for the centre because of the leadership misalignment. It caused the loss of opportunities for local employees to develop. This challenge taught me a lesson that instead of ignoring him, I need to confront reality, bring this issue up front to him, and bring to the other senior leaders’ awareness. I was living in a bubble thinking the issue would go away by acting with “passive aggression”. Rather, a more effective strategy is to confront reality with the person in a respectful way – to surface our convert resistance, and effectively resolve the challenge head-on.
Since the incident with the centre lead, I started to speak up where truth and confronting reality were needed to resolve conflicts and strengthen the relationship. For example, in a project meeting with other leaders to prepare for a final presentation, when I felt a hunch, to tell the truth about the project, I spoke up to confront the reality in a respectful way and move the team forward. Learning from this situation was profound – in order to turn passive aggression to confront reality, one needs to be aware of the passive-aggressive behaviours of oneself, think about the end goals and desired relationship, and actively manage such behaviours by speaking up, telling the truth, and confronting reality in a respectful way. These behaviours will not only strengthen the relationship but also increase one’s leadership capacity.
This power tool can be applied in coaching conversations where the client is avoiding something at the core, or only talking about excuses but not root causes or real solutions about a certain situation. The tool can also be applied when things are not moving forward for the client. For example, if the client overtly said yes to an action item, but kept delaying from taking actions, this is where confront reality (as a tool) can be applied by the following steps:
- Bring the data on the table (e.g., the client did not complete the action item as promised)
- Ask questions to increase the client’s awareness, reflection, and learning (with powerful questions)
- Use direct language to confront the client’s reality (e.g., what’s getting in the way to complete this action?)
Of course, there is more than one way to confront reality, but the purpose of this tool is to help clients see the truth and gain clarity of what’s beneath the surface. Once the clarity is gained, it’s time for coaches to support their clients through reinforcement of such behaviour (i.e., confront reality) for themselves. This will allow clients to start confronting their own reality without coaches’ help.
- As a coach, how do you confront your own reality before supporting others?
- As a coach, how do you support your clients to confront their own reality?
- How do you model “confront reality” as a coach to your client?
- What are some of the behaviours that would reinforce “confront reality”?
- What are some questions you could ask your client to shift their perspective from “passive aggression” to “confront reality”?
- What are some powerful questions you could ask your client to move them towards “confront reality”?
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Location: A division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 120 Avenue of the Americas, NY 10020
Burke, W. W. and Noumair, D. A. (2015). Title of work: ORGANIZATION
DEVELOPMENT, A PROCESS OF LEARNING AND CHANGING. Location: Pearson Education, Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458.
Google Search on Passive Aggression and Confront Reality