Category Archives: Leadership Strategies
Critics have been as long as organizations have existed. From the earliest business to the first stage performance, critics and their resulting bad reviews permeate the landscape.
The best business, show, and leader will always have their share of detractors – you just can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try or how hard you work towards perfection. But the ease to which a person can post a negative review – on review sites, social media, or even a news source trying to tickle an ear with a juicy story – has actually caused people and businesses with the challenge of proper responses.
To avoid being embattled in a legal issue that will tarnish your reputation or alienate future customers – such as the one facing a restaurant in Kent, England – you’ll need to think along the two mind frames of acceptance and engagement that will set you apart as both professional and successful.
Response Mindset 1: Drop The Defensiveness
It’s a given that everyone has an opinion. You must accept that everyone is allowed that opinion whether you believe it or not.
You must approach every review as a chance to learn, grow, and plan to improve. When the intersect of perception versus reality converge, you must factor out your perception and look through the eyes of another person.
Yes, a negative review has the potential to hamper your personal brand or company (as 84% of reviews are deemed valid by the person reading them). But giving a prideful defense towards what might often be valid constructive criticism can take a negative response further than you want to.
If you are truly professional, you’ll discover that valid critiques will yield some of the best opportunities to grow. Ask some other clients or customers if the review has merit – you may be suprised to find others agreeing with it. This will help you understand there blind spot areas you most likely need to work on.
Response Mindset 2: Embrace The Critic
As if the first step isn’t difficult enough in our human nature, the next step is similarly hard but just as vital.
72% of all reviews go unanswered, which means that a majority of critical input is not embraced to win a customer or detractor back. While it’s quite easy to ignore negative feedback, truthfully it’s the wrong thing to do. Unless you reach out to work on a solution or explain what the issue was, the review will not go away, nor will other’s perceptions including the writer.
Always attempt to engage in the critic with an apology, then work to take the dialogue offline for a phone call to understand the concern. If the review was bogus, then your case was stated, but you can leave the person with an assurance that you’ve crossed the chasm to work it out. It it’s valid, you will have a great opportunity to rebuild credibility, trust, and the potential to lock the person in as customer, possibly even long-term.
Don’t be afraid of that negative comment on social media or an online review site. Being held hostage by the fear will make you execute poorly and be defensive as a habit. Instead treat it as if was a live interaction in person and don’t hide behind the cybernetic world of your desktop or device. The bottom line in all of this is to take all input to improve, not to win an argument that you will almost always lose if you handle it poorly.
The whole world will see your response. How you go to market online will tell everyone if the review has credibility or not, but most importantly, it will reveal more about your credibility. Respond wisely and professionally.
If you think of a manure-laden farm, the picture you derive is probably unpleasant. The sight of dirty brown fields may be bad enough, but the awful odor that emanates will linger with you for quite some time.
Yet farmers put up with the gross and smelly substance because of the benefits it provides. However there are good and bad manures, and the wisest farmers know that bad manure can be toxic and harmful to plants, animals, and people associated with the farm.
As leaders, we need to discern the difference between good and bad manure. Manure in it’s very nature is waste, cast-off, an unpleasant by-product. Yet in it’s purest form, good manure is rich and will allow people to grow and flourish in a very healthy way.
Some examples of bad manure in your organization may be:
- Unchecked negativity and toxic behavior
- Unrealistic goals and timeframes
- Restricted resources that prevent tasks from being accomplished
- Deliberate sabotage to prove power or advance agendas
- Politics that derail the missions
- Behaviors and procedures that are not congruent to the core values
As stated above, good manure can be healthy and allow people to thrive and blossom in ways that cannot be done without it. Think for a moment on these issues and what good benefits can be derived:
- Ripple effects from toxic team or leadership leaving (pruning)
- Goals that stretch people beyond what they perceive as their limits (growing)
- Limited resources (due to financial or procurement constraints) that challenge people to be creative and innovative (moderating)
- Threat of competition and loss of business and/or market share (urgency)
- Company expansion that brings in new staff and fosters internal competition (flourishing)
- Openness of budget challenges that allow staff to find new ways to generate revenue and contain costs (sharing)
As leaders we need to do everything we can to not hamper progress and growth in our people and organization. But we cannot keep them in an incubator free from any harm or disease – the reality of the world does not afford that. By managing the type of fertilizer that is spread across our teams, we can foster a rich and healthier growth in our people.
Picture the following scenario:
An employee dislikes a situation and complains to one of their leaders. That leader goes to other party and asks only enough to confirm the first story is somewhat true, and orders that party to do such and such an action to correct.
The interaction then leaves that other party frustrated that their side of the story is not heard, or discounted because of the weight of the first person to bring a relative issue up. Instances like this tend to start from people who are the squeaky wheels, looking to gain favor, attention, and outcomes to their liking. Incidents like this give credibility to the old and true Proverb:
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” – King Solomon
As leaders we can be quick and decisive to address issues. Yet when those issues arise from the squeaky wheels we can have tendencies to cater to their whims for various reasons:
- We don’t want to confront them
- They disrupt and we want things to quiet down
- They have the wool pulled over our eyes
- They cast perceived urgencies
- They challenge our leadership so we bow to their pressure
Do you allow squeaky wheels to squeak in your ear too much? Do they have your ear because they squeak too much? Do non-squeaky wheels get the same attention? Do we enable squeaky wheels to squeak louder, and squelch those that don’t make noise but have otherwise legitimate and pressing needs?
Squeaky wheel employees distort the Pareto (80/20 rule) by making them the top 1% and directing more than their share of our attention. For example, Jeffrey A. Fox says we should be spending 90% of our time with our best employees. A squeaky wheel may not be our best or even top 20% performer, but absorb more than 20% of our attention. This disproportionate hijacking of time and resources allows the squeaky wheel to continue their behavior and take away from others in need.
Dealing with squeaky wheels is a balancing act. There are 2 approaches that must be used to prevent them from disrupting your team and organization.
First, understand who the squeaky wheel is. Their behavior may be a result of many variables both good and bad, such as:
- Low esteem
- Plea for help
- Covering for impropriety
- Sucking up
- Making them look better than others
- Insecurity in their job
Once the squeaky wheel is understood, then the following various actions can be put into play:
- Set clear behavioral expectations
- Ask questions, always get the 306-degree facts
- Give support
- Listen better, ask probing questions
- Be objective and take yourself out of the equation
- Take corrective action if behavior gets abused or disruptive
- Keep the focus balanced on other staff
When a squeaky wheel knows what is expected, they tend to quiet down. Just like any behavior, when the desired result is accomplished, the behavior continues. When their real needs are met without lending credibility to their disruption, they change course and learn to work with the newer expectations. But when they have ill motives, knowing their behavior will not get them their preferred response will most likely box them in and change, especially if you are honest with them and work towards a better expectation of behavior.
Don’t let the squeaky wheel(s) in your organization drive you crazy. Meet their needs and set boundaries to create a more supportive culture for all.
Scripture taken from the English Standard Version, Proverbs 18:17