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Just Talk to Each Other–Frequently and Directly

I spent a day last week discussing some difficult issues with a leadership team I’m a part of–issues we probably should have discussed a while ago, but hadn’t. As the day progressed it became clear that we had been avoiding quite a few conversations over the last year.

I spent a day last week discussing some difficult issues
with a leadership team I’m a part of–issues we probably should have discussed
a while ago, but hadn’t. To facilitate
the day we brought in The Sanctuary Institute–a group that helps organizations relieve “organizational stress”,
primarily through dialogue. As the day progressed it became clear that we
had been avoiding quite a few conversations over the last year–more than we had likely
anticipated. As a professional in the
organizational consulting field, it felt odd to me, like we should have known
better. We should have known that, over the last year, the
real conversations weren’t happening as we were getting busier and busier. We
should have known that some of the trouble we were having was avoidable–if
we’d only gotten it out on the table earlier.

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Then I had an insight I’ve had no
fewer than 2 dozens time in my career: the problem wasn’t a
knowledge problem. We all knew
better. We’d helped clients with the
same issues hundreds of times. Rather, we had an action problem. We didn’t do anything
about the fact that we saw issues. We didn’t make it a priority to get on the
same page and then regularly stay aligned. And because we didn’t make it a priority, week-in and week-out, the conversations
just got harder and harder to have.

As the session wrapped up a member of our team asked for
advice on how to ensure these issues don’t pile up in the future. “There’s no silver bullet,” was the response
from the facilitator, “just talk to each other, in regular meetings like this–supportively, frequently, and directly. If you do, the issues will
take care of themselves.”

It was advice
we’d given a hundred times. Yet somehow we were like shoemakers walking around
without shoes.

Doug Sundheim is a leadership consultant, author, and speaker. He is currently working on a book on the topic of smart risk-taking. You can find him online at clarityconsulting.com and follow him on twitter @DougSundheim.