At some point, as a leader or manager you will have to provide performance feedback, handle complaints and manage grievances. Mastering the ability to give difficult feedback and keep dialog constructive and open is essential.
When asked to train managers in complaint handling recently, I prepared by exploring what helps individuals to engage with feedback and complaints. I also reflected on a powerful personal experience, that helped me understand just how difficult staying open to feedback can be.
Failure to communicate openly can be a real problem for teams and working relationships. In the absence of direct communication, indirect communication usually results. A culture of gossip, high unexplained staff turnover and widespread complaining to no-one in particular, can be signs your workplace is a little reticent when it comes to direct communication.
Have you ever given or received an apology that had a powerful and transformative impact? Of late we've been working with organisations committed to making full and wholehearted apologies.
A heartfelt apology can be relieving for all concerned. Acknowledging mistakes and wrongdoings supports healing and the restoration of relationships. When Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised in 2008 to Australian Aboriginals and members of the stolen generation, for the forced removal of children from their families and culture, his words held significance for the whole nation. Rudd spoke at the time about ‘removing a stain from the nation’s soul’.
The apology to the stolen generation was a long time coming - far too long. The trauma of many individuals and their families was prolonged by a lack of acknowledgement of their suffering. Events such as this and the mixed messages sent by many institutions in response to allegations of child sex abuse have been painful to witness.
“We Are An Organisation At War With Ourselves”
“We are an organisation at war with ourselves.” When a courageous leader expressed these words in a recent workshop the whole room paid attention. They were said without judgement. More as a sort of weather report or to bring me up to speed with the participants' current leadership challenges.
Succinctly and without any drama that leader had expressed their struggle in a way that was visceral and captured the lived experience of those in the room. He had not taken sides, instead he had presented a snapshot, that we might also think of as a view from the balcony.
He was not the most senior leader in the room, just the person ready at that moment to speak openly about what he really saw going on.
Being able to recognise and seize moments of cultural change like this is incredibly important. The cohort of leaders was fully present. The issue was alive for them. These are the moments in which culture change happens – if we are alert enough to recognise and seize them. And this was one of those opportunities...
Australasia has been rocked in past weeks by a series of events that have deeply challenged our sense of identity and security. While it is tempting to think of things that happen on the world stage as ‘out there’ they send shock waves that reach into our workplaces and families. And we need to know how to recognise and respond to these secondary effects. Those of us with specialist skills in conflict management are called to leadership roles at times as individuals, teams, families and communities navigate shock, denial, anger, rage and fear.
One would imagine that events like the Christchurch hate crime or conviction of George Pell, would bring us together. And these events do have that possibility. However when our sense of security in the world is rent, we are typically thrust in the fight, flight and freeze dynamics which ironically result in increased tension and conflict in other facets of our lives. In addition the dynamics of power and privilege are brought into stark relief. Let me elaborate….
Organisational transformational or change initiatives represent a big commitment. They take focus, energy and time.
Whilst we know organisational change is now a constant, significant transformations take a toll on the human and emotional capital of the workforce, with many people reporting heightened anxiety as a result of the uncertainty that arises.
So the question of how to do change well is one we need to pay attention to.
In our work consulting on culture and change management, we have seen transformational initiatives that deliver on their promise and those that seemed like a lot of pain and effort, for not much return.
Here are four common traps we have witnessed, and our advice on how to avoid them.
Barnaby Joyce is not the first politician or leader to be blindsided by the consequences that come with using power poorly. It seems that for many years, peers, directs and the media would turn a blind eye to rank transgressions.
However, things are changing. Perhaps it has been the widespread exposure of phenomena such as abuse in our religious and many public institutions. Perhaps it was the global financial crisis. Perhaps we are simply becoming more educated.
Whatever the reason, the public’s intolerance for the misuse of power and call for change and accountability is growing louder.
Many leaders sense this and are growing nervous. So what can organisations do to address the issue and support leaders to use their power more effectively?
The New Year is not just a time for thinking about our bucket list and what you want to do, but who you want to be as a person. That includes how we want to be together in our teams and communities.
Over the break I escaped the cut and thrust of life, got out into the natural world, and reflected on what brings me true peace and contentment. Interestingly it wasn’t more stuff, more possessions or even more achievements.
If I have one wish for 2018, it is that we learn to be more human with each other, more curious, more tolerant and more related. That’s my vision and commitment.
In my last post I spoke about the film 'BULLY'.
One of the great strengths of this film is that while bullying in many schools and workplaces is managed in private, the camera allows us to witness and reflect on escalating incidents of bullying and individual, peer, family and the school systems’ attempts to deal with it. It’s easier to learn from the comfort of our seats, when we’re not caught in the intensity of the moment ourselves. Our brains are not surging with stress-related hormones. We’re not under pressures to act and fix things.
I’ve just seen the film ‘BULLY’, which follows the lives of five young people who experience bullying. Of the children in the film, one was seventeen year old Tyler Long, who committed suicide on October 17 2009. The documentary provides a compelling insight into the dynamics of bullying in the school yard and on the school bus. The film has been so powerful that it has now been viewed by over one million parents, kids, educators and advocates. Everyone should see it, but a word of warning, its contents are graphic and disturbing.
A particularly shocking revelation, following Tyler’s death, was that several of his fellow students had come to school with nooses around their necks. What distances a person from the impact of their behaviour, to the extent that even the death of a peer does not wake them up to the fact that it’s no longer a joke?