Here are six approaches to consider:
- Try to remain calm in the face of turmoil
- Ask open-ended questions in order to understand the situation
- Get multiple points of view before coming to a conclusion
- Determine what the “down-side” risks are
- Come up with a viable solution
- Provide “constructive” criticism off-line
Try to remain calm in the face of turmoil
The worse action to take is to fly off the handle and start naming and blaming. Nothing good can come from that. World class leaders rarely “run down the street with their hair on fire”. This is where words get used that can’t be taken back. Calm leadership is one of the first steps needed to recover from a bad situation. The team generally is waiting to see just how the leader will react. The expression “the speed of the leader is the speed of the team” is true in this situation. Calmly approaching the situation is best for all parties concerned (and it helps tremendously in getting to the bottom of the problem).
Ask open-ended questions in order to understand the situation
This is how the world class leader excels. Before they make a decision, they realize that it is critical to understand the total scope of the situation or the problem. If their questions start with “Who, What, When, Where, How much, How long”, it will go a long way at getting to the issues at hand. Once the world class leader gets to the end of this process, the picture becomes much clearer and a possible solution to the problem can emerge.
Get multiple points of view before coming to a conclusion
The world class leader will try to hear from as many involved people as possible. Each person clearly gets from their leader that nothing is out of bounds, nothing is off limits, and there will be no penalty for communicating the facts of what transpired.
Determine what the “down-side” risks are
Without blaming anyone, the world class leader has the facts of the situation, what went wrong and the potential down side risks. With the risks isolated, potential solutions can be determined.
Come up with a viable solution
There is an old adage “there are 100 ways to skin a cat”. Based on experience and the input from a strong team, the world class leader will decide on possible solutions to the problem. He/she may make the final decision but it done with others providing guidance along the process. The old adage, “there is wisdom in the counsel of many” is especially true here. With the best solution determined, the world class leader will put it in motion and take full responsibility for the problem. This is not the time for blaming or pointing fingers.
Provide “constructive” criticism off-line
If it is determined that someone was responsible for the problematic situation, generally the world class leader will give advice and constructive criticism to the person/s responsible. The admonition might be very strong and direct but it is not to tear down but to build up, regardless of how thoughtless or immature the error was. One of the best teaching aids is when the world class leader shares a time when they “screwed up”. This hits home like nothing else. It shows that the leader also has faults and weaknesses.
So, when the moratorium on blaming and criticizing is over, it will be critical for the leader to have a process to replace the old one. Most psychologists suggest that it takes 21 days to eliminate a habit but it also takes 21 days to establish a new one. So, I suggest to leaders start today to make a decision of your will to cast off the yoke of blaming and pick up a process that will have long term positive implications.