5 for 5 blog – Public/Private

4 Dec


“Celebrate people in public; correct in private.”

I first heard this phrase reading article about why the 49er’s players loved Jim Harbaugh, their head coach at the time, so much.  He made it a point to keep important matters requiring his coaching between himself and the player.

As leaders we would do well to heed this lesson. It is too easy to get caught up in an emotional exchange in social media, or even email. Too easy to fire off a note that can be shared around, and perhaps taken out of context.

It will never be ok for a leader to publicly shame a team member, peer, supplier, or client in a public forum. Conference calls, emails, meetings should be focused on communicating and collaboration. An important matter that requires clarity and more direct feedback should be handled  face to face or a minimum on the phone.

Please understand, I have never been perfect on this subject, but I have learned all too hard the implications and ripple effects that  correcting in public can have on relationships, projects, and morale. Here are a few lessons that I remind myself of regularly:

Be mindful. Never reply instantly .

If there is one lesson I have learned in my career is to take the one extra moment before firing off a heated reply. Re-read the original email you received. Re-read your response. . Take a quick walk. Whatever you do, create some space before returning a volley. There may be an insight you are missing.

Grasp context.

The second step in being mindful is to really try to understand the context. If you assume generally positive intent in the message, empathize. Why did the person say or send the message in the way that they did. What issue is at the heart of the conflict, aide from perhaps a poor chosen means of sharing it.

Choose the forum for your response wisely.

Pick up the phone. Get on a plane. Walk down to an office. But whatever you do, understand the message you need to send and create a real dialog. If documentation is necessary, send a quick summary after the meeting, but engage the other party one on one.

It’s not ping pong. Stop after the first reply.

One of the most frustrating  side effects of email, is an argument that takes place in that environment. If you replay and the other party replies and the issue is escalating, pick up the phone. Stop email piing-pong, especially with lots of people on the “CC” list.

By all means celebrate your team publically. Whenever I get the change, I like to mention people by name and recognize their work in town hall meetings and team emails. But be cautious of being drawn into highly charged discussions in the public realm.

Here are this week’s 5 for 5 articles:

Why I don’t give away my slides – by Tina Seelig

Dump the Myth of the High Achiever – by Luke Stangel

Mediocrity is a Virus. Here’s How to Banish it from Your Life. – by Benjamin Hardy

To Persuade People, Trade PowerPoint for Papier-Mâché – by Michael Brennan

It’s not the bottom, it’s the foundation – by Seth Godin

All the best, kevin