Give critics a chance to be heard

August 6, 2012
Filed under: Coach's Corner — Tags: , , , , , — jonimar @ 12:10 pm

Q My team implemented a company-wide technology change and a small but vocal group of detractors is publicly criticizing the move which is thwarting uptake. How do I get their buy in?

A dissension is normal and creative conflict can lead to valuable improvements when harnessed. Invite the core group to meet with you and other key leaders to voice their alternate viewpoints. Have a few former resisters attend to explain how they overcame their doubts and the ensuing benefits they discovered by opting in.

Set the meeting tone by appreciating their willingness to attend and share. Explain the intended purpose and out-come of the platform change and reiterate that it is here to stay. At the same time, state your commitment to hear their feedback and ease their challenges during the transition phase.

During the meeting, keep the dialogue focused on issues, not on people.

Strive to hear the value, insight and good in their viewpoints.

Remain calm, neutral and objective. Resist judging their opinions or defending yours.

Let disagreements emerge, remain curious and open. Recognize that the emotional stress of any adjustment period can result in a need to vent. Most often people want their views to be heard, accepted and validated, they are not expecting your agreement.

While you may not convert all of the naysayers, your goal is to create enough safety and comfort for them to bring issues directly to you rather than the public.

Schedule regular followup meetings to ensure you remain on common ground going forward.

If handled appropriately, the staunchest opponents can become your greatest advocates.

Originally published in The Province, August 5, 2012


2 Responses to “Give critics a chance to be heard”

  1. Brian Stainton on September 9th, 2012 10:46 am

    Hi Joni – read your article “Taking high road pays off in the end” in this morning’s Province ( 09-Sep-2012 ) and couldn’t agree more with you. I left teaching (secondary school-BC) in 1982 to enter the financial services world with a large, well-known Canadian life insurance company. Married, with 5 kids and a mortgage, I was confident that I could/would succeed – and I did !

    Five years in, however, I was faced with a BIG problem. I was earning more than the Br. Mgr. and … by virtue of his contract with the Co.,his ‘overrides’ on my production had become zero. My contract provided for vesting of my ‘residual commissions’ ( for policy years 2-5 ) after 15 years with the Co. In other words, if my employment came to an end before 15 yrs, I left without those ‘residuals’. Long story short:a ‘manufactured’ conflict set up by the Br. Mgr. … who was SUPPORTED by the Regional Service Centre Mgr. and the Director of Agencies at Head Office ( ie., national ). Their “investigation” went on for just over 3 months.

    With a Master’s in psychology, I knew that I had to take the “high road” and wait them out. There is no doubt they were tipping the ‘playing field’ on edge expecting me to simply drop off … and leave behind nearly $150,000 in non-vested ‘residuals’. Wonder where those $$s would have ended up had I left ? Bottom line: by taking the “high road”, communicating only in writing ( letterhead, dated, signed etc. ), issuing memos of all attempts at verbal communication with me on this topic, etc., I eventually came out … “on top”. The VP of individual insurance, Dir. of Agencies, Reg. Service Cntr. Dir. and the Br. Mgr. were all subsequently demoted.

    Needless to say, after putting in my 15 yrs., I left. I made an effort to write the CEO and Chairman of the Board a sequence of letters along with appropriate documentation supporting my statements – which I knew would be read by the legal department. It was interesting reading the Financial Post and monitoring significant changes at the Co. in the 18 months following those letters. Taking the high road required very stern self-discipline and a refusal to become “engaged” in the many attempts made to weaken my position throughout this very unpleasant ordeal.

    Enjoyed your posting today ! And can relate !! Cheers, Brian

  2. jonimar on September 13th, 2012 7:35 pm

    Brian, thanks for sharing your personal experience and giving readers a glimpse of what it takes to stay true to your personal integrity. It take incredible courage and determination to stay neutral and detached from the drama. Your focus on your purpose is inspiring.

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