Being Supportive and Inspiring Action

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Have you ever been in a place where you’ve agreed to do things that you didn’t do? Similarly, have you ever been on the other side of this equation, where someone has agreed to do something to help your group but that doesn’t happen? Connecting to CCL’s fifth pillar of Transformational Organizing, this webinar provides support, perspective and ideas for CCL leaders responding to coaching situations in a manner that embodies our values of relationships, personal power, integrity and optimism. This training provides advice on what to consider before, during and after having these conversations. If we are intentional about our responses and aware of what comes up for us when a miscommunication happens, it’s more than possible to respond in a supportive manner that inspires action.

TOC and Guide Section
Most of us have been in a place where we’ve agreed to things that we don’t do. For a variety of reasons, what we’ve agreed to do doesn’t end up happening. Similarly, most of us have been on the other side of this equation, where someone has agreed to something that doesn’t happen or they don’t follow through with.  This training provides support, perspective and ideas for responding to others in a manner that embodies the CCL values and inspires positive action.

Learning goals:
  1. Develop confidence when dealing with miscommunication.
  2. Select from a broad variety of approaches before and during sensitive conversations.
  3. Enhance strategies for supporting others through roadblocks.

For many of us, a natural response is to grow annoyed or angry with this other person (or even with ourselves), feeling resentful or full of blame or disgust, inclined to turn our backs in distrust. Others may feel more overtly hurt or disappointed, with a concern that this person can’t be relied upon.  As a result, this training provides support, perspective and ideas for responding to others in a manner that embodies the CCL values of relationships, personal power, integrity and optimism. If we are intentional about our responses, and aware of what comes up for us when others don’t follow through, it’s possible to respond in a supportive manner that inspires action.

What to Consider Before A Conversation
Take a moment to think of the last time someone said they would do something they didn’t do, if possible in one of your CCL circles. Maybe they signed up to table and they didn't show. Maybe they agreed to call people but they didn’t. Perhaps they said they would fill out a spreadsheet, but it remains empty.

Check Your Assumptions

There are a number of things to do before diving into a conversation with this person. First of all, assess the situation and check your assumptions.

  • Did the ball really get dropped? 
  • Is it possible that they meant  something else? 
  • How clear did you make yourself?


Before riding your emotional wave:

  • Check your assumptions 
  • Refresh your memory/communications
  • Pursue any conversation needed to clarify 

The process we’re about to outline below can be helpful whether or not a ball has been dropped or a more common miscommunication has happened.

Common Initial Reactions
Another thing to notice before having a conversation is your own initial reaction. We all have a response to unkept promises, and there are a number of common ones.
Maybe you feel confused as to why they volunteered for something that they didn’t do. Perhaps you feel frustration that they said they would come to the meeting but didn’t show up.  Maybe you harbor some resentment towards this person for their unkept promise.  These feelings are normal at such times, and could lead you to losing trust in this person, particularly if this isn’t the first time they’ve agreed to do something but didn’t.

Gaining Perspective
Gaining perspective on your own reaction can help your conversations and interactions with the people in your life to be much more productive Explore what your reaction is really about by asking the following questions:

  • What bothers me about what happened? 
  • What value do I hold which has been dishonored?
  • “I value…[ ] which I feel has not been met because [].”
  • Does this remind me of someone or something in my life, past or present, that tends to upset me?

Start with the End in Mind
Our conversations can often be easier if we start with the end in mind. 
  • What do you really want? What is the overarching goal?
  • Do we want this person to continue to participate with CCL?
  • Do we want to foster a Positive relationship with this person?
Very likely we are all hoping to enact effective climate legislation, right?
And in the bigger picture, we each want Progress to be made on climate mitigation…
So what type of interaction and conversation will help you meet your end goal?

Our Internal Emotional Process

Sometimes we have really good intentions but our brain gets the best of us. That’s why it can be helpful to better understand our internal responses, and get to the source. Our prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain where we do our best thinking. When we get ‘triggered’ or bothered by something in a big way, we ‘flip our lid’: the connections between the emotional brain and the thinking brain become temporarily disconnected. That means, for about 20 minutes, most of us don’t have access to our thinking brain when we’re upset. That’s where the ideas live, that’s where the caring and supportive and compassionate thoughts are formed which help us form positive and connected relationships, and help us inspire others to action. 

Knowing this can serve as your reminder to take a 20 minute breather to let your brain parts reconnect so you can think clearly and lovingly. 

Take on Others’ Perspective

In addition to considering our own reaction, it’s important and valuable to take the perspective of the other person - what might have been standing in their way, what might they know / not know (ie. how to manage volunteers vs. employees), what might their own internal reactions be? 

Also important is to manage our expectations, keeping in mind one of CCL’s Core Values of “Optimism.” We believe that people most often have good intentions. Perhaps they  struggled to say no for a whole host of reasons. Most people don’t want to let others down, let themselves down for not having time, and feel that they don’t have time to work towards what they want in the world. Saying no to others often ‘means’ this for us.

Use the R.E.A.P. Model to Eliminate Blame
CCL uses the REAP Model, which helps us look at a situation objectively and with an open mind. REAP stands for:  Remember, Explain, Ask, and Plan. We REAP what we sow!
  • Remember: Whenever you find yourself blaming an individual for a situation, stop yourself and remember these words: “Assume positive intent.” 
  • Explain: Before addressing the situation, come up with alternative scenarios that could explain the behavior without assuming a problem with the individual. What challenges might they face?
  • Ask: Assuming positive intent, mention what you observed and ask a question about your observations to start a discussion centered on problem solving.
  • Plan: Identify the true root cause and develop a plan to remedy it.
During the Conversation

While It’s tempting to sweep problems under the rug, and avoid the person themselves, having the conversation is crucial.  If you ignore the problem, it never really gets resolved.

Create Equal Footing
During the conversation, it’s also helpful to create a sense of relatedness and equal footing.  Sharing that “I’ve been there…I totally get it, “ goes a long way. Consider sharing your own similar experiences and what’s hard for you in those situations. Be sure to maintain an air of curiosity, which massively helps the conversation go smoothly and our relationship with this person.

Integrating gratitude really helps create a sense of relatedness as well - thank them for what you can, for the other areas where they have been successful OR even just because of their passion and willingness to take this thing on. 

Steer Clear of the Blame Bias
It can be hard to avoid pointing fingers, especially if we’re still feeling disappointed, frustrated, angry or resentful, but try not to make the person feel badly for dropping the ball. Be very intentional about the words and tone you use with them when you’re exploring the situation so as not to trigger any defensiveness or resent or even shame on their part.

Use CFOR’s:
As a helpful recap, here’s one model from Dr. Kurt Hahn to help you productively conduct the conversation:
  • Concern: State your business. From your perspective, what happened? Share your side of the issue, from your experience.
  • Feeling: It is critical that an emotion is conveyed. How were you affected? Acknowledge where you can see where they are coming from and empathize for a moment. 
  • Ownership: Is there anything you can take responsibility for, or own? Each person accepts responsibility for their actions. Avoid “but you” statements.
  • Request: How do you want to move forward? What will you do moving forward? You can only control YOUR actions.
Finally, step away if necessary.  If the conversation gets heated, don’t be afraid to take a minute to calm down. While stepping back, pay attention to how you release your anger in a healthy way, so that you will be able to come back and re-address the issue. 
Support for Successful Follow-through After Conversations

After the conversation is over, consider how to support others in successful follow through. If we can set people up for success, fewer balls will get dropped.
Make it easy, from the beginning, for people to say no and / or be selective about what / if they want to do. IF they get guilted into helping, it’s more likely that they’ll drop the ball.  The process of helping them tailor-design their own role is critical.

Check-in Regularly
Regular check ins are crucial to give your volunteers support:

  • Do. If your volunteer lacks experience with a task, show or talk them through how it is done, or even do the work the first time while your volunteer shadows you.
  • Tell. If a volunteer recognizes that they do not know how to execute a task to get a desired result, encourage self-reflection. This can help them create a more meaningful learning pattern.
  • Teach. If some steps of a task are known but your volunteer still struggles with other tasks, show them how to perform a task by clearly explaining why things are done a certain way. 
  • Ask. If a volunteer knows how to complete a task but has to follow a “cheat sheet” rather than doing it automatically, further improve their grasp of the task by asking questions. “What is a key insight from this process that you can carry forward?” This will help build confidence by confirming they may know more than they thought.
Check in before the deadline and optimally before the shame, guilt, overwhelm, tail between the legs kicks in

Build Connection
  • Be supportive -  express gratitude for them as a person AND for what they do and offer to do.
  • Be compassionate -  express understanding for the challenges they face, both within CCL AND outside of it.
  • Be clear - verbalize the commitment and be clear with deadlines / dates, give others a set time to complete the task. One critical component of ensuring accurate understanding is having your volunteer verbalize their understanding of the role or task is critical.  If they verbalize it, then there is real ownership.
  • Give others a time to perform by EVEN if there’s no specific deadline for the task. It can often help to ask the person how much time feels realistic for them to get this done by
  • Demonstrate integrity by following up with them by this date, or even earlier, if they aren’t in touch with you

Use S.M.A.R.T. Goals
When checking in, consider using a framework like S.M.A.R.T. Goals to help provide clarity and focus:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results-focused
  • Time-bound

To Learn More

Hopefully this guide will be a powerful support for you in situations when others say they'll do something and what we expect of them when they don't. 
If you’re interested in finding out more about these topics, be sure to check out CCL’s Effective Communications Action Team.

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Intro & Agenda
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Before a Conversation

During a Conversation

Creating a Successful Follow-up


Tamara Staton

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Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda (From beginning)
(From beginning)

Before a Conversation

During a Conversation

Creating a Successful Follow-up

Tamara Staton
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