“I’m leaving” and then the confessions flow. Several times I’ve transitioned from one company to another company, and I’ve learned more about true feelings in these moments than I had during my entire tenure. People, all of the sudden, became friendlier. They confided things that had happened at the company or ways that they had felt. And then when I arrived at the new place, the same thing happened. The “let me tell you” comes out. One by one, individuals stop by the door or the desk to bring me up to speed.
I call this phenomenon Confessions at the Door.
You’ve experienced it. I bet you have. Even at home, that neighbor you never knew very well until the For Sale sign went up in your yard – you now know everything about their family, life, and future aspirations.
At work, just the other day, I had a client tell me about all the people making confessions to them before she left to take a new job. They talked about changing meetings or resolving issues that they felt strongly about – yet, they had never said anything to the individuals that could actually help shift the experiences.
As we talked about how she would enter her new position, the wheels began to turn and she mentioned that confessions were already happening there, too. She had shown up for a meeting and people caught her privately in the hall and began to share about history and the ruts of the organization.
How do we shift these untimely confessions?
I’ve often wondered: what makes it so safe for people to share how they truly feel with us once we are leaving?
Most times, these thoughts and feelings would’ve helped improve team morale, company communication, and provided insight and guidance that would have steered us into a healthier culture. And we would have felt more supported and less alone on an island. Isolated in our experience. Feeling that no one cared nor noticed.
So what do we need to do to have earlier confessions?
Let’s think about the types of environments we’re creating in our meetings and conversations. Everyone brings unique giftedness and perspective, and it’s up to us to draw it into the conversation. Create culture that welcomes voices into the conversation. It’s also up to each one of us to find ways to share our voices without creating defensiveness or placing blame.
How the Cortisol Spike Happens
We must each take ownership of what we’re creating and how we show up. Often, leaders will hide behind their own personal style of conducting business or personally. This doesn’t seem to work anymore. As difficult as it may be, we have to consider the people that are on the receiving end of our communication. We have to be willing to shift in our style in order to create a more connected interaction.
As team members, we can’t solely blame leadership anymore. Our water cooler conversations aren’t helping anyone. In fact, they only serve to heighten the experience without resolution or problem solving. We are retriggering the cortisol spike in each other with every visitation to the past, rather than using the energy to move our organization or culture forward.
If the past didn’t work – how do we make it better? All of us.
- We must ask questions. Constantly ask questions. This supports a more trusting environment.
- We have to be open to questions. Telling others how to do something can save time but it will not teach them how to think through problems so that they can do it themselves.
- We have to be aware of our landing on others. Our words, tone, tempo, and non-verbals will color our interactions and our interpretations.
- We have to think in terms of WE rather than You or I. What do we need? What do we think? What are we willing to commit to?
It truly is an ongoing process – one that I am still mastering.
When we co-create this environment and experience, the “too late” confessions will become fewer. People will talk sooner rather than later. We will teach others that this is how we choose to interact and be in relationship. Water coolers will be met with supportive and encouraging conversations and doors won’t be needed for confessions. Everyone impacts connection, conversations, and communication. We are creating the experience together. If we think about each other, we will create the trusting, more open environment that we desire and everyone deserves.