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How to Extinguish a Disgruntled Leader

With winter in Ontario only a few short months away, I’m reminded of receiving my license. It was a blustery Saturday when the Young Drivers instructor was coaching me through skid maneuvering. We were in the parking lot of a local grocery store and trying (that’s right, on purpose) to get the car to skid out of control.  The maneuver wasn’t that difficult, just speed towards a snow bank and then turn sharply and hit the gas. BOOM – instant skid.

What was interesting about the training was how to get out of a skid. I can still remember when I made it into my first skid. I nervously grasped the wheel and shouted out to my instructor, “now what?!”

She replied, “Turn in the direction of the skid.”

 What??!

It would seem that by turning into the skid you gain control of the vehicle again. Counter-intuitive to what you might think.

This philosophy came to mind recently during the formulation of a strategy with a large board for a publicly traded company. We had one employee who had been around for years and who, despite everyone’s desire to walk on eggshells in his presence, was an obstacle.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but let me ask you, if the board members name someone during the swat analysis as being an “obstacle,” do you think it’s a recognized issue? Absolutely!

I’ve learned over the years that the most difficult obstacles in any organization are often the ones that are living and breathing. You know what I mean. There’s Bob in the corner office who is stuck in his ways, or Sally who has been with the organization since its inception and disagrees with everything you say.

Living, breathing obstacles are often the most difficult to overcome. If only we could tuck them away somewhere, like in the trunk of a car… (Kidding. Sort of.)

The interesting thing is that dealing with this type of obstacle is no different than dealing with a skid on icy roads.

You need to agree with them.

That’s right; agree with what they are suggesting, when they suggest it. Give them the floor, let them speak their mind, and agree with them.

Sound counter-intuitive? Well, it might be, but it’s the only way to diffuse them as an obstacle.

I’ve repeatedly found that when you let those who oppose ideas fully voice their opinion, they tend to lose their stamina. In fact, I often find that those who are most boisterous are often so as a result of having others dismiss their ideas for long periods of time. The longer they perceive they are ignored, the more of an “obstacle” they become.

If you allow them a stage to fully voice their opinion and explain it to others, there is an 80% chance they will feel listened to, validated, and be prepared in turn to fully listen to the ideas of other.

So the next time you have someone speaking out in rebellion towards the ideas of your board or leadership team, give them the floor and hear them out. You just might find that not only do they share some information that may have been missing from their earlier explanations, but they actually lose momentum and avoid skidding out of control.

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