Here's what happened: for a while now I've been watching a project develop that I secretly think is a waste of time and doomed to fail.
I've kept my head in the sand and just ignored it, pretending it's someone else's business. (Not great leadership here, I can assure you!)
But here's the thing: if the project fails, not only does the organisation look bad, as head of the darn thing, I do too.
So why did I hesitate? Why did I ignore my intuition hammering me to say something, to do something?
Fear. Of course. It's the only thing that ever stops anyone.
Fear of what? I confess it was fear of rocking the boat, of not being liked, of becoming a target for criticism, anger, frustration, and so forth.
But this is not good leadership.
A good leader is not someone who solves the problems for the group; a good leader is someone who brings the group together and gets them to face the uncomfortable truth.
Then together the group can tackle the issue and come up with solutions.
But if no one says anything – for fear of reprisal, rejection, or criticism – then it's much like the story of the “Emperor has no clothes”. A wily tailor convinces an impressionable arrogant Emperor that his new suit of 'clothes' can only be appreciated fully by the most regal and illustrious of subjects. In reality the Emperor is naked; wanting to believe the story because it flatters his ego, the Emperor himself denies the obvious truth, and the rest of the court along with him. Out of fear of offending the Emperor, and secretly wondering why they can't see the clothes, his loyal subjects go along with the ruse, until at a public parade a child cries out that the “Emperor has no clothes.” Knowing a child has no political agenda and speaks only what they see, the facade is broken and the entire court is humiliated.
I don't know about you, but I think that it's much better for the truth to be laid bare behind the scenes than in public.
So why do we stumble and fail to act when the consequences loom large?
We doubt out own observations.
We worry that we're wrong.
We don't want to upset the apple cart.
We think, “it's none of my business”.
We think, “I'll just keep my nose out of it – it's someone else's business.”
And this is the exact tipping point of good leadership: take action in spite of imagined consequences – lay the truth bare as you see it – or keep your head down and let things take their course, without your interference.
There is no glory in what needs to be done. It's tough, uncomfortable work that alters relationships forever.
But if you're going to be true in your role as a leader – to help the group face the awful truth – then it needs to be done.
And that's what I did. I weighed up my own personal discomfort of being the 'bad guy' against the possible ridicule that the group might face if I did nothing and I prepared myself for a meeting to reveal all.
This is how to have a peaceful confrontation:
Know that on the other side of the confrontation is relief. Much like confession, speaking your truth is incredibly liberating.
1. Ask for guidance. Go ahead and ask for some spiritual support from the Universe, God, Higher Self. I did this the night before the meeting: I went to bed and asked for some guidance on the issue. I woke feeling focused and refreshed. Feeling like you're a little bit less alone as you go in to a confrontation can help you stay grounded, no matter what kind of reaction you get.
2. Allow the person you're speaking with to have any reaction they like. Know that however they respond will not change your resolve; it will only strengthen your sense that you're doing the right thing. When I shared my thoughts on the project I could see dark clouds pass over my colleagues face. This did not worry me as the relief of sharing my perspective overcame any fear of her reaction.
3. Make a list of all the advantages of removing this energy drain from your life. Undoubtedly it will be long - and if the confrontation gets a little too edgy, take a good look at it afterwards. For me, not saying anything meant much worse consequences than speaking up.
4. Mentally forgive the person you're speaking with both before and after your conversation. Know that their reaction is their business, and not necessarily a reflection on you. Everyone has an opinion and their own 'truth'; I realised that if I could not persuade the rest of the group to see my concerns, and they were determined to persist with the project as is, then I would step aside and leave the group. It's a tough call, but it felt really good to stand by my principles.
5. Don't waste your renewed energy. Take all that resulting inspiration and relief and channel it into something really on-target for you and your purpose. I tell you, my relief was refreshing and renewing. I felt so much stronger, even knowing that I had unnerved and upset my colleague.
6. Treat yourself to a wonderful healing experience afterwards, whether it's a hot bath, a great read, or an excellent piece of Belgian chocolate. I pulled out my novel and had an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning.
Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Author Zoe Routh works with women in business to enhance their personal effectiveness and leadership capacity for global effect. For free tips on how to become a more effective leader that will save you time, money, energy, and stress, go to http://www.innercompass.com.au