In 2010, Gino Wickman shared some of the great lessons and observations he had gleaned from implementing EOS® with hundreds of entrepreneurial leadership teams. In reflecting on my years as Gino’s business partner and Integrator of EOS Worldwide and my own experiences working with leadership teams, it felt appropriate and timely to confirm and restate those same great lessons.
My client was mad. I could read the body language in the room, and it was not good. It was plain to see she’d been hurt deeply by some unspoken slight from one of her team members. The two of them were sitting there with their arms crossed, facing away from each other. The rest of the team was fidgeting or wriggling in their chairs and not looking at anyone.
It was obvious there was an elephant in the room that all seven of them knew about, but were refusing to acknowledge. Knowing that a healthy team is critical for our success, I called out the issue.
What do you say when one of your team members asks you to keep something confidential? There’s a dangerous workplace situation that all leaders and managers find themselves drawn into from time to time. I call it the “confidential complaint” trap.
This happens to me when I’m working with leadership teams. Someone will stop me in the hall during a break and say, “May I talk to you for a minute, NOT in the room with the group?”
There’s a natural inclination to say yes to this kind of request. As leaders, we all want to be approachable. We may also want to find out what’s going on inside our organization. But promising blanket confidentiality for run-of-the-mill complaints can be a dangerous slope because it is diametrically opposed to creating a healthy workplace culture.
I’ve noticed a pattern recently. In meeting with several leadership teams for the first time, I always ask the questions, “What do you want from your business? What’s your big goal?” And lately I’ve heard the same answer from business owners at three different businesses: "I want a business that can run itself. I want to be on vacation for a month and have no one notice!"
But how can you build a business that runs itself when your company has hit the ceiling?