Oh Sh*t! Not My Best Day
“We are all set for tomorrow. We’ll have the entire organization there and have talking points for the organizational clarity pieces we have been working on since the off-site.” Todd, the President, sounded confident and ready for the cascading event, a one-day organization-wide opportunity for the Leadership Team to communicate the new clarity pieces and get some feedback.
I replied, “We had hoped to bring your Leadership Team back together for a quick review, but it sounds like you guys are comfortable with where things are. It has been a few months, and we remember there were a few questions about the clarity piece when we were with you. Everyone is on board now right? Did anything change?” We were willing to go forward if the leader was confident.
“We are good to go. Basically everything is the same.” Todd affirmed.
The next day we shared the team model overview and Todd came forward to rollout the high-level clarity piece.
“Okay folks, this is our core purpose: To change the DNA of MCW so that it delivers great experiences!”
“Before I go any further, is that a surprise to anyone?” said Todd, pausing for comments.
“Well, actually, I don’t think that is what our core purpose is.” The comment came from Steve who was standing at his table. Steve was one of the quiet, introverted leaders on Todd’s team. During our offsite three months ago, Steve had remained quiet, saying he needed time before he could commit.
Oh Sh*T! Moment for Todd (and us)
From the onset of working with this team, our biggest concern had been that the team had finalized the clarity piece without everyone buying in. Apparently, that fear was coming true!
The event devolved from rolling out clarity pieces to debating and re-defining clarity live-time – not an ideal scenario for showcasing a leadership team’s cohesion.
There was some great debate and it ended up that another leadership team member agreed with Steve. Oh, Great!! A few brave folks stood up and directly called into question the cohesion of the leadership team. It seemed like things might get even worse.
Todd, though, rose to the occasion.
“Look, I take responsibility for this. I thought we were aligned and committed but, clearly, I did not go back and make sure everyone had shared their concerns. I may have assumed folks that disagreed would have spoken up earlier. That was my mistake. So now that we are here, let me roll-out a couple more related pieces and we’ll do some more discussions at our round tables and then the Leadership Team will take that away to finalize – again. We worked with the Leadership Team, and they debriefed the “event” and finally hammered out the clarity pieces, getting full commitment. They walked away stronger for it and rolled out the clarity to organization shortly there after at a All-Hands meeting, acknowledging the mistake.
Later, Todd told us that first “event” was one of the worst days for him in his tenure as President. However, instead of wallowing in self-hate, Todd made more of his Oh Sh*T! Moment. It was a key learning for him and the Leadership Team, about the importance of getting full commitment. When they did finally successfully rollout the clarity they talked about the importance of getting commitment and the obvious chaos if you don’t.
Everyone on that team has shared this story going forward and, though none of them would want to repeat that day, they are better for it. Now, when they meet before any key organization-wide communications, they ensure a full commitment. Instead of simply making statements and assuming silence is agreement, they have a thumbs up, thumbs sideways and thumbs down system in place for commitment, and they won’t go forward until everyone has shared their differences and is willing to “disagree and commit.”
The lesson was hard one but an important part of their DNA going forward!
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict
CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.
They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.
Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.