Sunday, May 19, 2019

Leadership Lesson 4: Turn Complaints into Ideas

Associated Leadership Expectation: Show Up Positive

Complaining is a behavior pattern that works against creating a cohesive team mentality. It divides our departments into “us and them” groups and dissolves trust. When someone comes to us as leaders with a complaint, there are two basic reactions: we either get sucked in or we take it personally. Instead, we need to turn those complaints into ideas.

Getting Sucked in: The “Misery Loves Company” attempt at connection

Sometimes, those we lead make Very Good Points™, and it is very difficult not to commiserate with them. It validates us when someone else has the same concerns we do and can help us feel less alone—a common issue among members of leadership. This is a dangerous practice that can lead to issues such as an oversharing across professional boundaries, the appearance of having a “favorite,” and worst of all, the undermining of the trust-respect relationship. As members of leadership, WE are the face of the inner workings of the organization. When we express our negativity, it is amplified in those further down the hierarchy.

Making it Personal: Defending, Diffusing, and Dismissing

Other times, we may take a complaint personally, causing us to feel defensive. To minimize the impact of the complaint, we may be dismissive and blow off their concerns. We may even complain about them to others for complaining, which does nothing short of increasing the us v. them mentality. It also breaks down trust. They may think, “If they talk about someone else like this when they aren’t around, what do they say about me?” We have more power than we think when it comes to culture, and though we cannot control what happens to us or in the greater organization, we can control how we react.

Instead: Turn Complaints into Ideas

These three easy steps can help turn those complaints into ideas:

  1. Acknowledge the complaint. *This doesn’t mean to agree with them! Recognize their concern and thank them for bringing this to your attention.
  2. Seek to Understand their complaint and Ask Them for a solution. Reframe their complaint in your own words to check for understanding. Ask them, “If this was in your power to fix, how would you handle this?” Then, empower and engage them as part of the solution.
  3. Publish Their Ideas and Share Them with others for feedback. Being loyal to the absent includes giving credit to others for their ideas. When they know they will be cited for their ideas, they are more likely to share them. 

What About Venting?

There are also times when someone is just mad about a situation and needs to get it out. It may be useful to begin a conversation with a question: “Do you want me to listen, or do you want me to do something?” People need safe spaces to vent their frustrations and providing this for them may deescalate a brewing situation.

Tip #4: Turn complaints into ideas by asking for solutions.

Durmaz, L. (2013). How to turn employee complaints into ideas.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

ADF Elections and The Wild Hunt article

I had the privilege of being interviewed by Sean McShee from The Wild Hunt in regards to the results of the recent ADF election. The article is a compilation of two interviews, one with me and one with the reelected Archdruid. The questions Sean asked me were centered on my perspective of women in ADF, specifically in leadership. We have been facing the same issues since I joined ADF ten years ago, and through the efforts of some of the most beautiful women I know, we have made a tremendous amount of progress, even gaining some important allies along the way.

I am proud of the work we have done toward gender equality in ADF, AND we have more work to do. Both of those things can exist at the same time. We can be moving in the right direction, we can hold a list of examples where we are getting it right, and we can still have more work to do. Our work isn't done. The work of the women in ADF is paving the way for all the other wonderful expressions of gender, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of this important work.

For transparency, here is the transcript of the interview I did with Sean. I stand by these words, and I am happy to discuss any of these points. Dialogue is the most effective instrument of change.

WH_ADFElect20190430 questions Ashton

Can you tell the readers of the Wild Hunt who are not ADF members a little about yourself?