Reacting to Reality

Jerry calls an emergency meeting with the entire team before anyone goes home for the day. Waiting for everyone to be seated, he paces, his face red and visibly irritated. With a raised voice he states, “I want you all to know that I have had it. I’m sick to death of how unprofessional you have all been acting lately… gossiping, complaining, acting like immature children. I am not your mother, and I am not going to tolerate this ridiculous behavior anymore. I expect each one of you to show up here tomorrow with a smile on your face, ready to work, and if I see otherwise, you can expect it to be your last day.”

Somewhere far away, in a distant galaxy…

Sara calls an emergency meeting with the entire team before anyone goes home for the day. Waiting for everyone to be seated, she sits peacefully with a confident, expectant look on her face. With a calm, strong voice she says, “Thank you all for giving me a few minutes before you go home today to talk to you about something important and immediate. Based on the events of the past few days, I realize that as your manager and leader, I have not made myself clear about some of the cultural behaviors in this company which are non-negotiable, and I want to correct that now before any more time passes.

One of the values in our company culture is mature communication, positive attitudes, and collaborative teamwork. This includes using the skills you have been taught to solve your disagreements quickly, to deflect destructive gossip back to the people who can solve it, and to support your teammates in a positive way whether they are standing in front of you or not. This is the company you have decided to work for and the team you have decided to work with. By doing so, you have agreed to maintain this high standard—one that provides a productive and positive work environment for all of us. We have a very busy practice, and all of us want to do good work we’re proud of, feel supported by our team members, and get home to our families and personal lives as close to 5:00 as possible. For this to happen, meeting our cultural standard for professional behavior is a non-negotiable requirement.

There are only four reasons that any of us would not meet this standard:

1) Lack of clarity: It is possible that some of you weren’t clear or have forgotten that this is a non-negotiable standard. I hope I have cleared this up for all of us today.

2) Lack of skills: It is possible that you don’t know how to do what is required. We have offered professional coaching for the development of these skills in the past, but if you feel you need a refresher, please see me tomorrow and I will make that available to you.

3) Capability: If you feel you are not physically, emotionally, or intellectually capable of adhering to our standard, please speak to me tomorrow to discuss our options.

4) Willingness: It may be that you disagree with this standard and are not willing to comply for your own personal reasons. If this is you, we have full respect for the difference of opinion, and we will do everything we can to help you transition quickly and professionally to another opportunity where these standards would not be required.

What questions can I answer for you about any of this?

Terrific! Then I look forward to seeing each one of you tomorrow morning and continuing together as a team to focus upon and perform the good work we are called to do for our clients (patients). You are an amazing team of professionals and I’m honored to continue to lead all of us in accomplishing our goals and becoming the absolute best we can be. Please know that I welcome the opportunity to support you and your personal choices in any way I can.”

Same issue. Different leaders. Very different results.

“The person most likely to emerge the leader will be the one who can articulate the reality of a situation without blame, judgment, or fear.”

This quote radically changed my results in both my personal and professional life. It sounds so simple, yet it can be so hard to accomplish, especially when our emotions are triggered, and our patience is tested.

When things are not working, agreements have been broken, or goals have not been met, it is our nature to look for those responsible and to judge the situation, as well as those involved, harshly. But these reactions rarely improve the problem, which is ultimately what we want.

The best leaders are those who consistently resist the urge to play the blame game, cast judgment, or recoil or react from fear. Instead, they are the ones who shift into neutral, keep their head, accurately assess the situation, recount the facts, clarify the options and/or direction, and inspire and realign people toward the goal.

While it may be accurate to say that this is not the first time this infraction has happened, we can state that without judgment and take some of the responsibility for its continued reoccurrence. While an incident may be a shocking or unwelcomed surprise, we can state that without hysteria but instead create calm and forward progress. And while this reoccurring situation may be disappointing, we can state that without pessimism about the future.

The person most likely to emerge as the leader will be the one who can accept and state the facts without assigning blame, reacting from fear, and can speak to the behavior or results rather than personally attacking the individuals involved. The leader will be the person who creates extreme clarity around the “non-negotiables” as well as the consequences for non-compliance and the rewards (not always financial) for accomplishment. They will also be the one who can capably explain the “why” behind the request/requirement without needing to justify it. They will be the ones who can create the inspiration necessary for the players to want to take the action, make the change, or strive for the achievement.

There is not a list of do’s and don’t’s to become a leader. There is, however, a list of whom you must become, and this skill is at the top of the list. And we are not only speaking about the owners or managers of a business. If you read the quote above carefully, it states that the person who does these things will be the one who will emerge as the leader—regardless of their position.

This week, give some thought to whom you might need to become and the skills you might need to master to emerge as the leader in your company, family, profession, or community.

At LionSpeak, we’re standing anxious to help businesses, teams, and professionals to raise the leadership bar and the communications standard.

“The person most likely to emerge the leader will be the one who can articulate the reality of a situation without blame, judgment, or fear.”