Calm the Rhetoric…Make Molehills

tempToday, exaggeration and hyperbole are ever-present. Listen to any sports event… tune into any news program…Speak with many of your friends and/or employees…

What do you hear?

  • Amazing… incredible… unbelievable
  • The meeting was a disaster…this is crazy… what a collapse
  • I got thrown under the bus
  • He is furious… she is ticked off… I’m mad as hell…
  • I just got beat up… he ripped me a new one

These words and expressions ratchet up the tension, conflict, and even anger in public discourse and the workplace. As such, little conflicts or disagreements (molehills) can be made into serious issues and events (mountains) that require considerable leadership time and attention to soothe and correct.

This may work for news and sports organizations that are trying get us to watch their news program or build up a rivalry.

But, this does not work for a business that is trying to succeed.

As leaders, we need to calm the rhetoric ourselves and with our teams to ensure that problems get their appropriate amount of attention and do not take on lives of their own.

As such, we need to:

  1. Avoid exaggeration and over-statement
  2. Avoid inflammatory words
  3. Address small problems while they are still small molehills so that they do not fester and grow
  4. Confront individuals within the organization that seem to take pleasure in whipping up controversies or issues
  5. Lead by example in working hard to avoid negative talk
  6. Reduce gossip and strongly discourage the rumor mill and speculation
  7. Address larger issues promptly and directly
    1. Focus on the situation or behavior and not the individual
    2. Ensure that everyone is heard
    3. Create a clear and well-communicated plan to resolve the issue and put the focus back on the business

In the end, by calming the rhetoric throughout the organization and being a molehill maker (as opposed to a mountain maker), we can create time and capacity. Employees will focus on doing their jobs and safely serving customers rather than wasting time and attention on the rumor mill, what someone else is doing wrong, the newest gossip, or the latest corporate controversy or disagreement.

Let’s get back to work.


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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