Vannoy and Ross

August 10, 2010



Time to challenge the status quo: It’s been said “you shouldn’t say anything about anybody that you wouldn’t say to their face.” But what happens if this guideline is wrong and handcuffs teams?


It’s a fact: There are moments when we are challenged by the attitudes, actions or leadership styles of others. This is a natural occurrence for teams who have achieved coveted diversity.


When these challenges materialize “stuffing” our thoughts doesn’t do any good. And toxic behind-the-back chatter ruins people, relationships, and progress. So what do we do?


First, people with self-confidence who are in healthy relationships with others know they can approach the person in question and have an honest and direct conversation. The key is to discuss what is important and why, and explore with questions on how best to move forward.


Second, let’s end the illusion that we always possess the confidence and skill to take the step above. Therefore, because we want to move forward as effectively as we can, let’s release others to talk behind our back so they can build the qualities required to have critical conversations.


One leader reports, “I told my team I expected them to talk behind my back. And when they do they can still ‘have my back.’ We work hard to create the culture where they can approach me. But I’m not perfect – and nor are they. So I tell them, ‘I trust that when you can’t come to me and you do talk behind my back, you’ll do it in a way that serves me, further develops our relationship, and frees us to move forward faster.’ I haven’t been disappointed yet.”


Who’s already talking behind your back – and waiting for your coaching on how to do so more effectively?



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