Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reacting to Controversy

I've written several posts about the need for civility, good karma, and a thoughtful process for every issue.

I have to react to negativity several times each day. As I review my email, I read numerous reports of challenges, frustration, and dissatisfaction. It's an expected part of being a senior leader in large, complex organizations and being a CIO.

Some of these emails have a controversial he said/she said character.

Responding to them requires tact and diplomacy. I want to support and protect my staff but also want to ensure we improve our processes in the interest of continuous quality improvement.

Recently, I read an article about the Shirley Sherrod case by Steve Adubato, who speaks and coaches on leadership and communication. His observations mirror many of the lessons I've learned when reacting to controversy.

*Don�t be so quick to judge if you haven�t heard the entire story.

*Due diligence is critical when it comes to communication.

*Realize how dangerous it is to assume.

*Get the whole message.

As my due diligence progresses, I find that many emails have the quality of Roseanne Roseannadanna (for you 1978-1980 Saturday Night Live Fans).

People misrepresent the facts, distort the truth to suit their own ends, and highlight events that are in their self interest and not the greater good.

It's really important to check out the facts from multiple stakeholders before drawing a conclusion.

It's really important to pick up the phone and talk through the issues, listening and taking an active interest in all sides of the story.

It's really important to suggest next steps, assign accountability, and deliver on your promises.

Understanding the facts, having a dialog, and meeting expectations for followup resolves most conflicts.

As with the Sherrod case, once you know the whole story, most controversies are not what they seem.
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