Chip Shots - When Internal Dissatisfaction Goes External

Here at Lead Change Group, we know that problems are most effectively solved when individuals come together to meld ideas, energies, and approaches.

To use a golf analogy, not every shot is a long drive. Many times, golfers have to take a chip shot to move the ball along for a short distance, with incisive accuracy.

If you are new to the Chip Shots green, welcome. In our Chip Shots feature, our Leading Voices are invited to provide brief insights into a leadership dilemma. Our first Chip Shots post can be viewed here.

Today's Question: What steps do you take when internal dissatisfaction goes external behind your back?

Leading Voices David Dye and Jon Mertz took shots at this dilemma. Each of them pointed out that when a disclosure of this type occurs, the first order of business is to address the information.

When Internal Matters Are Aired Externally First

David Dye recommends separating the dissatisfaction issue from the external communications issue. This is a hard situation. It is easy to become defensive, feel betrayed, and lash out. Unfortunately, this only deepens the divide between you and your people. There are two issues to address here. One is the source of dissatisfaction itself.

The second is that people took it outside the company. The key here is to be clear about which issue you are addressing. Do not mix them up or it gets muddy and no one will grow.

John Mertz emphasizes the need to explore the validity of the concerns. Whoever received the notes of dissatisfaction should sit down and discuss the concerns with the individuals identified in the rumblings. There is a responsibility of the person receiving or hearing the dissatisfaction to be forthright in conversation with the involved team members while assessing the validity of the issues expressed.

After The Initial Shock, What Should A Leader Do?

John Mertz Says: Discuss, Collaborate  and Create

Leading in a collaborative, problem-solving manner is key and sets the right example. What carries a higher responsibility is doing what is right for the higher purpose of the organization and stakeholders. Leaders need to step up to this responsibility and avoid any pettiness in rumors. To stop them, the leaders need to act with empathy and full collaboration. The best way to lead is by open example, not through closed-door rumblings or behind-the-back of others.

  • Take the step to discuss the concern.
  • Collaborate to determine steps forward.
  • Work together to create an open, engaging culture.

David Dye Offers: Heal, Train, or Correct

When you address the source of dissatisfaction, remain calm. Seriously…deep breathing first. Then call together key opinion leaders, acknowledge the dissatisfaction, express disappointment that they didn't address the issue with you first, then ask for their input. Don’t defend yourself or your decisions. Thoroughly hear them out, take good notes, and reflect the content and emotion.

Once you can put their issue into words as well or better than they can, you've got a decision to make. There may be truth in their position that you need to hear and respond to…or it may be that they are missing a key perspective or data. Your response will depend on the facts. Either way, be looking for ways to bring them in as partners in addressing the situation.

When you address the fact that they went outside the organization, you can start with neutral, exploratory language.

For example: "I noticed a number of people talking with competitors and the press about this issue. Can you tell me what happened there?"

You may discover deep mistrust that needs to be healed or you might find a complete lack of training regarding protocol or even how to have difficult conversations. How you respond next - healing, training, or correcting - depends on what you find out when you ask.

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