Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA
Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
In the context of conflict, leaders often miss this critical step. It is hard to think clearly when under attack. The leader’s natural response is to duck, cover and counterpunch. Becoming angry and defensive is natural and understandable. When aroused, leaders don’t think clearly. They forget that carefully documenting others’ perceptions is the first step to managing them.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
When you expose perceptions to the light of public scrutiny, those perceptions are often revealed to be outrageous or unreasonable. When your critics are just opining irresponsibly with no need to be reasonable or accountable, they say all kinds of ridiculous things. When you put them on the record, their unreasonableness will be apparent to everyone. By exposing them, you will have done what every leader is supposed to do—attach unpleasant consequences to inappropriate behavior.
How can you do it?
Go to the source. Your critics will say the most outrageous things behind your back in situations where they are confident no one will hold them accountable for the allegations they make and the ridiculous conclusions they draw. Trash talking is one of our favorite pastimes.
Take notes. When they see you are recording what they say, the unreasonable people will usually deny what they previously said or refuse to go on the record. If they refuse to take a public position, any credibility they might have had with the reasonable people is toast. This limits their organizational impact to their small group of trash-talking friends.
Arrange for a witness. You may have noticed that a good many people are two-faced. People say all kinds of things, but when your confront them with it, they blithely deny they ever said such a thing. You have probably already been burned by such behavior many times.
How have you arranged to get unreasonable perceptions on the record?