Wednesday, March 23, 2011
In dealing with sensitive situations:
1) While we can't "be there" all of the time, there are times that we need to "be there". If there is a complex issue on the table or there is an opportunity for a set of circumstances to go sideways and spiral out of control, it is important for the leader to be there so that there is no confusion about the leader's position on that particular issue.
2) Acknowledge the issues. If a lack of or poor communication has been an issue that has led to how people are feeling, acknowledge it. If the interpretation of a policy or guideline has led to an unfortunate situation, let them know you are aware of it. Give the people in the room this voice by acknowledging the problems that you know are there.
3) Say what you mean and mean what you say. When we take a position on an issue, we need to make sure that position is clearly communicated. We all know that there times when the position that we take is not necessarily going to be popular. However, if that is the position that we have to/want to take, it is better to let people know where you stand now rather than waffle on it and disappoint them later.
4) Articulate that there may be hard times ahead, but that there is common ground, and we will find solutions In any complex or charged situation, at the very least, the common ground is that people are willing to come to the table. That people are willing to meet to solve the problem. And more often than not, there is much more common ground, like the success of a student, the satisfaction of a teacher, or what is best for the school or community. Common ground is always there, just sometimes we have to look a bit harder to find it, and it is often underneath layers of hurt feelings and emotion.
5) Drop the swords When people do come to the table, I always want to believe that they are there to solve a problem. I have never found it to be quicker to solve a problem by raising voices, hurling insults, pointing fingers, or raising fists. If we are here to fight, fair enough, let's have it out and bring the biggest swords that we can. But I think we will find that at the end of that battle, we won't really feel too much better, we might have said some things that we might not be able to take back, and we will be in a position where a solution may be even more distant than when we began the fight. In the course of the fight, we may have said some things that we can't take back, and the solution that we hoped for might not be the one that we get.
#5 is key for me. If we come to the table dressed in battle regalia, often times we should expect a fight. But If we can always remember to go into a situation looking for a common ground rather than a battle, I think we are miles in the process of finding solutions to complex problems.
I need to remember to drop my sword.