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Early in my career, I learned that a major part of my job is to solve problems. We can all agree that problems aren’t fun. They often require tough decisions and stressful conversations. Because of this, most people run away from problems rather than confronting them. This is a recipe for chaos and dysfunction. We have all heard the phrase fight or flight. It’s a real thing. Fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening. Our instinctive response to danger or stress is to either run from it or stand up and fight. Some people can’t walk away from a fight. That isn’t good, because not everyone is worth a fight. You do have to pick your battles, and in business, you need to choose those battles wisely. But that isn’t the problem for most business people. Most business people are cowards and rather than confront problems, they run away. The ability to deal with problems and stressful situations is a key component of strong leadership.
Weak Leaders Aren’t Really Leaders
I have to admit that weak leaders make me a little sick, and I know a lot of them. The first indicator of a weak leader is they are quick to take the credit but avoid responsibility. They like to make the easy calls but think their subordinates should take all the hits for them. Weak leaders love to play golf or have drinks with colleagues and customers, but they avoid tough meetings. When there is a problem with an employee or customer, a weak leader has their staff deal with it. Conflict is part of business. If you want to be a strong leader, you have to learn how to deal with conflict. In business, there are going to be arguments and disagreements. When weak leaders can no longer avoid a problem, they dance around the issue and they have buffers or lawyers relay information on their behalf to avoid the possibility of an uncomfortable confrontation.
There is No Drama in NAHREP
I am certain that one of the reasons NAHREP is one of the most successful business organizations in America is that many years ago, after a painful stretch of turmoil and dysfunction, we decided on a policy that we coined, “There is no drama in NAHREP”. Essentially, the policy served as a guide and a great case study on how organizations should deal with conflict. Like any organization, NAHREP has disagreements and problems. However, what differentiates us is that we address conflict swiftly and decisively. Problems and dysfunction can fester and like an untreated wound, can develop into a deadly infection. As the CEO of NAHREP, I have to lead by example. I don’t like gossip and I completely ignore anonymous complaints. My staff knows to only bring issues to my attention when they are serious and validated because I never hesitate to address a problem. I always say, “Let’s deal with it now”. For me, conflict and confrontation aren’t stressful, but knowing that there is a problem that is going unresolved, is a major stress to me. When I am dealing with a problem, I try to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t beat around the bush. When a resolution is agreed upon, I am known for making my counterparts repeat verbally or in writing what was agreed. When a resolution is not possible or someone breaches the agreement, that person is cut from the team with prejudice. No looking back. I don’t like to leave anything to chance. The goal for any company or organization is to build a culture where there is trust, and where everyone begins with a core belief that every individual on the team has the same objectives. We all want what is best for the organization. There can be disagreement on strategy or tactics, but never a question of motives. When your company or organization gets to that point, amazing things are possible.
The Art of Running Toward Problems
There are two types of people in the world. People who add stress and people who reduce stress. Obviously, you want to surround yourself with people who reduce stress in your life. Here is the good news; When you develop a reputation for being a person who is intolerant of artificial stress or drama, people begin to self-select themselves in or out of your circle. Essentially, you attract what you project. Here are a few disciplines that can make you a better leader and your organization stronger: 1.) Dealing with problems today is always better than tomorrow. This is self-explanatory. 2.) Most problems are a teaching opportunity. Depending on the problem, in many circumstances, if you take the time to explain the situation and why it’s a problem in the first place, you can not only solve the problem you improve your relationship with the person or people involved. Even if the situation is a lost cause, other people within your organization may learn by observing how you addressed the problem. 3.) Battle harder for others than you do for yourself. This is also self-explanatory, but when your team sees you only respond to problems that affect you personally, whether or not you realize it, you are building a self-serving culture where everyone is only in it for themselves. 4.) Once in a while, you need to show people that you are willing to throw a punch. Taking the high road and being diplomatic is incumbent on emotional intelligence, but occasionally, problems have to be dealt with aggressively. If someone is posing a dire threat to you or your business, you shouldn’t be nice. You have to deal with the threat proportionally. You have to be brutal. People inside and outside of your organization will take note and they will have greater respect for you as a leader.