Just the other day I had a client who was speaking to me in confidence over the phone about concerns he has with several of his staff.  In the course of this conversation, his assistant came over to him to let him know that one of the people he was speaking about had overheard him and was quite upset.

He was embarrassed and horrified. 

And I said, “This is your chance to step into it.”  I wanted him to step forward, into leadership, rather than shirk back.

I told him, “as soon as we’re done with our call, go straight to X and let her know that you know she overhead your conversation.   And that you’re glad.  You’re glad she overhead, because it’s important.  It’s important that she knows you’re committed to having an extraordinary workplace culture which means addressing several key challenges, one of which is her mood swings.  Tell her you care about her, and the team, and that you imagine her mood swings impact many of the relationships in her life.  And the impact her mood swings have on the team is a sense of walking on eggshells around her because they never know who’s going to show up in any given moment, the easy going X or the brutal X.  And that this simply doesn’t work for creating a workplace environment where everyone can feel good about coming to work.  Tell her you know she’s capable of extraordinary things and that you hate to see this behavior stand in her way.  And then ask her, ‘What are you committed to?’”

And when we got off the phone, he did just that.  He stepped into leadership, faced the guffaw head on and owned the intention of our conversation.  He wasn’t talking to me about her to gossip, he was talking to me because he cares about her, his team and an emotionally healthy workplace culture.  And it’s from this place of commitment that he owned what initially seems like an “oh crud” moment and transformed it into an opportunity for “real deal” communication.

And she received his communication because the intention behind it was genuine.  And because she knows he’s right – she knows her mood swings negatively impact relationships she cares about (this wasn’t the first time she’d received this feedback.)  And she respected him because he didn’t make excuses, hide or weakly apologize for talking about her, but instead reached out to her directly, stepping towards her.  And she reached back and adjusted her behavior because she understood that he was a stand for both her and the team.