Friedman, my favorite leadership author, told his family, friends, and clients a simple truth regarding the process for dealing with unreasonable people. I love his virtuous counsel and give it out nearly everyday. Today, in an early morning practice with a young leader in training, I was asked how to deal with an unreasonable teammate who consistently talks about another teammate behind his back. Simple, I replied. Next time your teammate begins to talk to you about another, stop him in his tracks. Ask him if what he’s about to tell you he’s told to his teammate. If the answer is yes, you ask him the reasonable followup question of what was resolved and why is he telling you. You see, if the answer is yes it might be reasonable to talk about what he learned, how he can improve his ability to influence, or how he can better understand this teammate with your wisdom. Act with reason, here.
However, if the answer to your question is no – he’s not talked to his teammate prior to talking to you, you tell him to hold his horses (old Kansas term) while you call his teammate into your office or get him on the phone. You don’t listen to his objections or rationalizations, you simply get busy connecting the two with tension. Once you’ve got his teammate on the phone or in your office, you tell him that his partner was starting to tell you something he hadn’t spoken directly to him. You now give him the airtime to do just that. If he starts spinning, you stop him and ask him to speak more ccd, truth in love. You facilitate these two teammates talking.
Here’s my discovery from years of doing this. You won’t hear gossip coming your way from this teammate any longer. You just met an unreasonable request from a teammate with an unreasonable response. Good. The problem with so many leaders today is they attempt to practice being reasonable with the unreasonable. Does NOT work. So, next time you face an unreasonable request from someone in your system, slow down. Push the tension back to them and don’t try to use reason. You and your system just reduced gossip and idle conversation. Your system just got better. Remember, every team is limited by the conversations they have or do NOT have.
Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it…