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Speak up: Silence doesn't solve Problems

“In the end, as a leader, you are always going to get a combination of two things: what you create and what you allow.” – Dr. Henry Cloud

Henry Cloud’s (psychologist and Boundaries for Leaders author) quote is a Smart Savvy favourite: whenever we share it, the head-nodding and knowing looks are evident throughout the room. Why? Because we’ve all been guilty of it: not giving feedback in a timely way (or perhaps…not at all). In trying to avoid bad feelings such as discomfort, hurt, anger, or the unknown, instead, we can end up with a whole new group of feelings, such as frustration, hopelessness, and indifference (our own feelings, and our team members).

What do you allow at your workplace? Are any of these scenarios uncomfortably familiar?

  1. Reactive relationships: leaders who either take public jabs, or completely ignore each other—leaving team members to either pick a side or slide under the boardroom table.
  2. Bad ideas that get the green light: directing a team to execute on the boss’s pet project which has some serious design flaws is a lose-lose proposition.
  3. Values/action misaligned: hypocritical actions by team leaders, “do as I say, not as I do,” undermine desired company culture and set a stronger, negative set of norms and expected behaviours.
  4. Obvious underperformers: a team member who consistently doesn’t deliver yet somehow remains part of the team, with no performance correction from leadership.
  5. Super-performer with attitude: a team member who runs counter-culture to every company norm and value (stated or not), but is allowed to run amok because they bring in the big accounts.

Don’t mess with what you’ve created in terms of business success by allowing negativity in your workplace—whether overt, or unspoken. Leaders must have all the conversations, including the hard ones. We frequently equate difficult with negative but that’s not always the case. Reframing “bad or difficult” to “problem solving” is a useful shift to get the conversation started.

Try this to start the conversation:

“Let’s look at Situation A, and what might be helpful for you to move it forward…”

Try this to work together in solving a problem:

“This is the problem <<succinctly state the facts>>. This is what we need to achieve <<state the goal>>. Help me understand your perspective and how I can help, so we can solve it.”

Try this when finding the right time to talk never happens:

“This might be a hard conversation, but we’re going to push through together. I’m committed to working through this with you.”

If you’re the leader, what do you allow? Be direct and have those conversations; don’t downplay the need for the behaviour change. You may be the one who helps a team member identify a blind spot and save them from ongoing career challenges. And, with trust and caring, they may do the same for you.



Feedback skills need some polishing? If you - or your whole team - would benefit from some support in both giving and receiving feedback, contact us! Smart Savvy Academy offers a full-day workshop on Feedback and its role in fueling a culture of growth.


Smart, Savvy + Associates are experts in helping marketing and communications leaders find people and develop teams that thrive and deliver inspiring results. As a people performance company, we specialize in finding marketing and communications talent in the Pacific North West. We also offer training programs for leaders and teams as well as options to become a certified coach or get coached.


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