Professional courage and influence - Lesson 2: your reflections


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CIPD Staff

17 Jan, 2020 10:37

Welcome to the online community learning space for the lesson: Challenge constructively. Use this forum to discuss the community reflective activity in the lesson. Read the contributions of others, ‘liking’ those you find helpful and add your unique reflections to the conversation by replying to this post. Click here to return to the lesson page at any time.

Community reflective activity:
What tips would you give to a member of staff about constructively challenging someone in a more senior role? 

  • From my own experience with on-the-spot situations, I found that the more passionate you are about a subject, the more you tend to lean towards aggressiveness when challenging someone in a more senior role. Give yourself some space (like 1 or 2 breaths) to sit back in order to channel that passion into a level-headed response to give your view. It takes practice and self-reflection as well as acceptance that you may not always be 100% successful.
  • A very interesting discussion. I am an advocate of Stephen Covey and use his 7 Habits often. I find his Win Win approach successful
  • Choose your battles wisely, consider what wider purpose does this serve or impact it may have? I have previously challenged decisions in the past, based on my experience and knowledge (and because I knew I was right), however, it has not proved beneficial for myself or the organization. Sadly, there is a lot of politics in organizations and corrupt people with 'friends in high places', particular if you work in a bureaucratic organization. I have since learnt that it is not what you say, but when to say it and, more importantly, who too. Building professional relationships initially is absolutely crucial, in order to challenge effectively and be heard.
  • In reply to Allison:

    Yes, weigh and evaluate before approaching and this could depend on how and what you've learned in the past, therefore, you may want to dive in intially which is fine, just make sure you've looked at the company's values; culture and financial position carefully so you have a more in-depth understanding and basically have done your research. It's definitely a balancing act between not being afraid of the outcome from a challenge to saving it to a more appropriate time. Take any outcome as a learning process to form a stronger relationship next time. This is what perspective is, as outlined in the TED talk.
  • I have had times when challenge has gone well and I have felt that a good discussion has ensued and also time where I have felt flattened by how I handled a situation. I think that as many have said I like to reflect on a point and may need time to do that so arranging a time to allow all parties to reflect on proposals and come back together, maybe then being able to objectively say what they believe is good about each proposal. I also think that looking at something from the other persons perspective and asking " what is driving this need to change or your idea to do it that way?" to really understand what it is that needs to change (especially when not instigated by you). I do feel that putting yourself in situations where you feel uncomfortable (but safe) is the best way to practice, can this be done with you immediate team/manager, before doing it with a wider community?
  • In reply to Stefanie Ward:

    I agree that challenging everything is not a way to gain support and affect change. Start with small steps and grow confidence in yourself and your peers will see that changes you make work well for them and are sustained.
  • In reply to Chris:

    Totally agree Chris. I feel aggressive and passive behaviours are emotions shown in unusual or unexpected situations. Preparation and practice on the points you outlined is key!
  • having just completed this module, the key point I learned was to be very self aware, and honest with one's own responses/reactions to situations. However, prepared we think we are for a meeting, that initial response may be the make or break of getting an idea through.
    Personally, I need to be a better listener! I am getting better but I do need to work at it - don't panic in the silences! fortunately, I now have someone I work closely with who happens to be a professional coach, and he has guided me on this. He says I'm gaining on confidence on so many levels.
    My big thing has been imposter syndrome - I don't always feel I have the right to be in the position I am - once am over that, then influence comes more easily.
    Not sure of all this makes sense, and/or resonates with people, but being comfortable with who we are and having high levels of self-awareness can only stand us in good stead.
  • In reply to Chris:

    I agree Chris. People need to have the courage to constructively challenge irrespective of rank.
  • Think about what you want to say, how you are going to say it, and where are you going to say it. Is it better to constructively challenge on a 121 basis? Have facts (if available) to support your challenge. Contain your emotions and don't hold back in offering the constructive challenge just because the person is in a more senior role.
  • I think when it comes to situations where you find yourself needing to challenge others it is really important to be able to constructively criticise your own work as well. With the HR example from the lesson, it talks about when a colleague has an alternative idea that you think is perhaps the better option and how to approach this.

    Personally I would take the following steps, combing a both passive, yet assertive approach:

    - listen carefully to your colleagues suggestion/plan
    -note the similarities and differences with your own
    - find a path forward that may be able to combine both suggestions and work collaboratively to create the best option

    This is of course assuming there is time and resources for such collaborative work. I could not say that for every meeting I have attended that I have been able to give so much head-space to this process, however having it in the back of my head stops me from reacting overly-assertive (or even aggressively) when trying to get my opinion or ideas across.
  • One thing would certainly be to try to see things from their point of view. Ask questions about why they take that particular stand, then you are in a better place to frame your own response around how your idea may actually help achieve their aims. In general asking questions is one of the areas that is helping me work on this - in a situation where I maybe don't have a fully formed idea, challenging with questions like: What about...? What would be the outcome if...? That also helps the other party not to feel like you are attacking their idea.
  • I would advise them to remain calm, listening to the senior and construct their argument in a calm positive way. They should be prepared with facts and information to support their arguments and that way they can answer any questions the opposition may have.
    I would also advise them to be positive and keep open body language
  • Certainly it is important to set the mood and agenda, shows respect and belonging to the person and people that the individual is engaging to draw attention and interest. Assertiveness is aggressive and passive, select the right attitude in approach not to offend and to get the best in support from the people interacted in the audience that is being addressed, make the environment safe that people enjoy the company and are able to approach the individual in spending invaluable time to reflect and perform and develop one another.
  • I think it echoes many of the well formed statements here, but I would advise them to first break down their intention - Who does it benefit? When is the best time to approach this? Is there any initial ground work to be laid which will help facilitate the constructive challenge? What are they likely to think when you bring this up? What are their counters going to be? What is the worst case outcome, how can this be mitigated and what will happen if it can't? Are there others you can gain buy-in from to bolster your cause? How could you approach this collaboratively?

    Ultimately this suggests taking a much more considered approach rather than rushing in and causing damage, and following all these points may be on the extreme end, but weigh up the significance of the challenge and decide how much planning is appropriate.