True story about one of the biggest regrets I have in my corporate career. At one point, I was part of a C-level leadership team (reporting to the CEO) and our business was facing immense challenges. Our prior two CEO’s had been fired within 18-24 months of one another. We were behind our competition in innovation. We had major supply issues which made our customers unhappy. Employee morale was low because our business had been declining steadily for 24 months. Many of us (including me) were new. There was lack of trust within the leadership team as each of the regions fought to get their customers the limited supply of product.
As I look back on my career, one of the bigger regrets I have is not stepping up to lead better in the dysfunction. I’m not sure I had the skills. I’m not sure that I thought it was my job. At one point, the trust was so low, I’m not sure that I cared enough. It was a career low. I was one of those insidious 30% “actively disengaged” team members that engagement surveys talk about.
I didn’t know better then. But this learning experience inspired me to create a course on LinkedIn about Managing Team Conflict. It’s about how to step up to lead and influence, regardless of whether you have the “leader” title. It’s about how to have a positive, transformational impact even if you’re operating in a dysfunctional environment. It’s about making it your job to restore trust, because that’s what leaders do, regardless of their title.
Often the lack of trust and engagement creeps up on us. We don’t even feel it coming. We just know something smells funny. Often we’re not sure what to do about it. We’re not even sure whether it’s our job to do something about it.
My goal here is to share what I learned and hopefully prevent you the career regret:
- Do something about it when something smells funny. Even if it’s not on your job description, it’s your job.
- If you’re not sure what to do about it, have an honest conversation with the other boiling frogs in the pot. It’s your job.
- As a team member you are just as accountable as the rest to create trust on the team – even if that means owning up to the lack of trust you feel with others. That takes courage. It’s your job.
- If you don’t think your boss is willing to listen, give it another try. Try another way to talk to them. Find someone else to help you. It’s your job.
- Learn how to have difficult conversations that rebuild trust when it is broken. This requires authenticity and accountability. It’s your job.
As one of my C-level clients says “Our job is to manage conflict. Easy jobs don’t pay well”. I hope this inspires you to take some action and save some frogs in the process. We’ll all be glad you did.
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This blog post was first published on my Forbes.com blog.