Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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Collaborating and Defusing. It starts with a choice.

Throughout the day, at home and work, we all face situations that can leave us disillusioned. And, in those moments, we all wrestle with a defining question! How will I respond? And how we choose to respond can significantly impact our relationships.

A couple of weeks ago, during a discussion with a seasoned business leader of a manufacturing company, he began sharing his frustrations with one of his employees. The leader said the employee who has a pivotal role in his Supply Chain team did not take accountability for his mistakes. As the leader narrated stories of times when his employee’s behavior was problematic, I was very intrigued and asked, “Can you walk me through your last discussion with this employee?” The leader began to recount a conversation when the employee shared some challenges he was experiencing at work. Specifically, the employee expressed concern that the challenges would result in several shipment delays. And in response, the leader informed the employee that his approach to handling the issue was poor, would cost the company money, and result in loss of business.

As the leader recounted the experience, I noticed that he was panting, and I asked him how the employee responded. And he said the employee stated that the issues were out of his control and impossible to predict. This response aggravated the leader because he interpreted it as an absolution of responsibility. And the conversation ended abruptly as the leader expressed further disappointment, and the employee silently walked away. Disappointed by the outcome, the leader asked me what he could have done differently. And I suggested we discuss his intention for the discussion with the employee. And, subsequently, his approach.

As the leader reflected on the situation, he began to see how his approach had prevented him from achieving his desired outcome. It might be easy to see how this leader’s approach was self-defeating. But in reality, this approach to dealing with frustration is one that many of us adopt. Because, as living beings, we all flow through a spectrum of emotions, and it is easy to let our feelings dictate our actions. But, choosing to collaborate and defuse tension is a choice we can make. Here are a couple of ways to do so.

Be intentional

One of the most important things we can do before engaging in a potentially tense conversation with another person is to be clear on what we hope to achieve. And when we know our intention, it is beneficial to write it down and role-play the conversation with a trusted friend. A trusted friend can tell us how our message lands, help us identify potential pitfalls, and help us course-correct and get on the right pathway.

Shed preconceived notions

Have you ever walked into a conversation confident that you knew how the other person would react or respond? I’ve had plenty of these moments. And most of the time, I have been surprised. Because when we think we know what someone would say, we expect and plan for a specific response. But our assumptions do not account for what the other person might be thinking or feeling. And making decisions based on our assumptions can lead us down the wrong path.

A way to shed preconceived notions is to start the conversation by asking questions. And it is best to avoid asking leading questions as those questions prompt the desired or expected answer. Instead, by being curious and asking questions with an earnest desire to know what someone else is thinking, you might learn something new that could change the course of the conversation and strengthen the relationship.

For you and to you,





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