Check the Facts
I was working with the CEO of a diagnostics company who had been hearing very negative feedback about a senior leader in their lab. Quite a few direct reports were upset with this person, so the CEO assumed they were the cause of the problem. Upon further inquiry, it was discovered that this leader oversaw putting some new lab standards in place. And while the new operating standards were important for the lab, they made some people’s jobs harder. As a result, blame was being unfairly placed on the person responsible for implementing the change. These situations occur regularly for leaders.
The lesson? Always check the facts. In this case, just because the feedback was given, doesn’t mean that it is correct. This is not to dismiss the feedback or deny how real the experience of the people on the team was. They were very unhappy with the situation. Rather, it makes sense to look a little deeper. In this case the problem had very little to do with the leader in question. The real problem had everything to do with challenges on the team and the fact that everyone had grown comfortable with mediocre performance. As for the leader, she could have certainly used a little more interpersonal skill in dealing with the team (couldn’t we all?). But she was not the real problem for the business.
As a leader, you are constantly pulled into challenging situations and forced to rely on information from those around you. It’s easy to let your initial thoughts or interpretations take hold. Be prepared to regularly ask yourself these questions:
- What is the event prompting my response?
- Is that absolutely true?
- What interpretations, thoughts, and assumptions am I making?
- Does my response and its intensity fit the actual facts?
It’s sometimes useful to take time to write answers to these questions when you feel hooked by an issue.
Making time to gather additional perspectives and check the facts is critical for leaders. And frequently, it opens the door to a more productive approach to a challenging situation.