Recently I was meeting with the senior team of a media company. I was very impressed with them. They really got down to the nitty-gritty of what’s working with their team and what isn’t…and how to improve what’s not working.

We spent a couple of hours wrestling with a knotty problem: what to do when you have an issue with someone, and aren’t saying anything directly to them, but instead only complaining to third parties. I see this problem as endemic to organizations, and they saw solving it as being key to their success. (I agreed.)

I’ve had this conversation with many teams over the years, and I really liked how this group framed the challenge at the root of the problem: “How can we make if safer to bring difficult issues to each other directly?”

There you have it. We aren’t straight with each other because it’s scary. We think, What’s going to happen? Will the other person get mad, be defensive, resist? Will it hurt the relationship?

So, here’s what the group came up with:

  • Do it one-on-one and NOT via email.
  • The person bringing the issue takes responsibility for being constructive, timely, and behavioral.
  • The person “receiving” the issue takes responsibility for truly listening; for seeking first to understand.
  • Both people take responsibility for focusing on finding a solution.

Great, simple stuff.

Think for a minute about what the business world would be like if people actually did this.

Think for a minute about what your own life would be like if you actually did this.