Ever since I was a little kid with my sisters chalking out streets for riding bikes in the driveway, I’ve always wanted my own traffic light. My dream came true last week when my brother-in-law gave me a little plug-in model from his garage sale.
It didn’t take long to put it to use at Practice #19 with King Sam and his court while learning about Situational Trust. We all had a good laugh when I plugged it in, but soon we realized we all are sending signals to each other that control the level of our interactions and inhibit how well we connect with each other. In relationships, our signals are wired to our facial expressions and other non-verbal cues.
A red light signals “don’t enter the intersection.” It communicates loud and clear, “don’t come into my office”… or “don’t dare to bring that topic up”… or “don’t bring in any bad news.” When a leader has an anger problem, the team sees red too — no matter what words they hear to the contrary. Your team, your family, even your dog can see it, and they broadcast it to each other. Don’t talk to him until he cools down. Wait another day. Better catch him in a better mood.
A yellow light literally means “clear the intersection.” For most teams, that signals the same conclusion as a red light. Better pull up short. And if you dare to proceed, get in and get out quickly. A red light camera could snap anytime where what you say can and will be used against you.
A flashing yellow light means “proceed with caution.” This is the way most teams interact with each other and their leader if they interact at all. Feed your ideas and message out piecemeal. Give bankshots. Float up a trial balloon. Don’t say what you’re really thinking. Attribute what you’re thinking to someone anonymous.
To avoid the CEO curse where you’re surprised to hear what the rest of the system already knows, going “green” is the one you want. But be aware going “green” BTL-style is actually anti-“nature”… i.e. your human nature. It’s scary b/c it takes vulnerability and a STRONG CORE to make it safe for your team to have full right-of-way to “enter the intersection.” But it’s so worth it. This is where real truth in love happens. It’s how serious builders communicate. They don’t wait for feedback, they INITIATE. And they play it back to make sure they heard it right. They mine for more to get to the root. And say thank you when they get the real feedback — even when it hurts.
King Sam closed Practice #19 building some serious Situational Trust. He gave his court the green light to approach him and tell their king where his signals are not as green as he thinks.
So check your signals and give your team and your teammates the green light to shoot straight with you and each other. Make it a habit. Remember “we don’t see things the way they are, we see things the way we are.”
This team is on the road to getting better and to becoming more distinct and deeply connected as ONE.