Don’t Demonize Employees Who Raise Problems

“The day your people stop bringing you their problems, you have stopped leading them” – Colin Powell

Let us ask you this question:

How many times in the last two weeks has someone disagreed with you?

Most of the time, the team is afraid to speak up because they feel like they might undermine your decision OR they feel like they are “annoying” and might look “dumb” 

As discussed during the podcast, we have had situations like this happen to us as well!

We have been leaders that have challenged our superiors, market leaders, trainers and/or business partners and felt like we were the “difficult” and “annoying” manager that was always complaining about every decision that was made. 

So how do you prevent feeling like the “difficult”/ “annoying” manager?

  • Do not be disrespectful 
    • Approach it in a calm and collective way
    • Check your emotions
  • Do not challenge, just to challenge
    • Have the right intentions to make an impact 
  • Be open-minded and want to be part of the solution 

Remember: It starts with YOU. You have to create a culture where this is a NORMAL thing. Receiving input from your team is crucial to the business!

How do you as a leader CREATE this culture? Here is a refresher:

  • Know your employee
  • Create a culture where honest feedback is appreciated
  • Check your ego – check your intentions
  • Don’t take it personal!

Remember: As stated in the Harvard Business Review Article- “Don’t Demonize Employees Who Raise Problems” by Nilofer Merchant- “Divergent, dissident voices are the key to growth and innovation”- embrace those that want to see different perspectives, this helps YOU and YOUR TEAM GROW.

So, what’s next? How do you move forward?

As stated on the Harvard Business Review Article- “Don’t Demonize Employees Who Raise Problems” by Nilofer Merchant:

  • Notice the Problem
    • If something is bubbled up to you, do not disregard it. It was important enough that your employee brought it to your attention
  • Define processes to work on gaps to solve tough problems all the time
    • Our world is forever evolving, so be in the learning mode ALL THE TIME. 
    • Be flexible
  • Celebrate the agitation
    • Embrace being uncomfortable. 
    • It is okay if you do not have all the answers – work through it together as a team
    • Value getting better than looking good 
  • Not complainers, but champions
    • Appreciate those that want to make a “ruckus” 
    • Show some empathy
    • Appreciate your team for wanting to make you and your team better 

Article Link:

Nilofer Merchant has personally launched 100 products amounting to $18 billion in revenue, and has served on both public and private boards. Today, she lectures at Stanford, gives talks around the world, and has been ranked one of the most influential management thinkers in the world by Thinkers50. Her latest book is The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World.

Transcript (auto-generate by hosting platform – MAY CONTAIN ERRORS)

retail is crazy. Your leadership doesn’t have to be. This is crazy f in retail with Brennan and Alice.

Welcome to another episode of Crazy fuckin retail Tonight. Our episode is inspired by HBR Article Don’t demonize employees who raise problems by Melo for Merchant Brennan. Do you want to kick it off?

Yes, Alice. Thank you. I’m very excited to talk about this topic tonight because I think that a lot of our listeners might not even know it’s a problem. So how many times, Or let me just, you know, listen, I was just thinking the back of your head right now. How many times in the past two weeks has someone disagreed with you? How many times in the past two weeks has someone asked for help Admitted that they don’t know how to do something, Really. Just think about those things, because by creating a culture where employees and team members are afraid to speak up because they get demonized, we shut out great ideas. We create an environment where people think that they can’t ask questions because they might be looked at like they might be quote-unquote dumb or not know how to do their job, so just reflect on those as we go through this episode. But, Alice, what were some of your takeaways? What hit home for you in the article?

Well, when I was reading this article, I was thinking about many different situations in the past when I was a store manager and I would really challenge my area manager, district manager, well as market leader, loss prevention, business partner, HR business partner. And I remember those situations where I felt like this annoying leader but always wanted to speak up in challenge. But I remember how that felt because, you know, ah, a lot of leaders want us to just kind of be the yes man and just kind of follow suit. But, you know, I I’m always or I’ve always challenged myself to not undermine my leader but challenge other people to think differently. But when I was doing that, I felt like I was always in trouble or I was disrespectful or just undermining my leader’s authority and business making skills. And I think what it comes down to is doing it in a respectful way. You’re right. I think we have to talk about the culture that you create, but I think it’s also how we project it. You know, you can’t come in here undermining somebody’s authority or second-guessing their ability to make a business decision, but understanding that we’re not undermining them. But just a different way of thinking. And I think so. Many episodes we talk about. Do you know your employees? Do you know them very well? Can you relate to them? Do you know what makes them tick? And I think that’s super crucial in creating an environment and a culture that we allow our employees to think differently and raise up any problems If there are any problems and it’s kind of hard, you know, I think the position you and I both hold sometimes, um, we always want to be like result-driven. Okay, make sure you’re winning. And KP Eyes, which are key performance indicators, were talking about conversion or a loyalty program. I get it like we’re in a fast-paced environment, but we have to embrace these people out there that want to make a ruckus. You know, not long ago, I was listening to a Seth goat in ah podcast, and he’s always talking about make ruckus. You know, um, those people are the ones that initiate change. So we have to foster that environment, and it’s gonna be uncomfortable. We’re gonna talk about it more today, but this is just part of life. You know, there are so many different people in the world that we have to be able to think differently. And we have to embrace that.

Yes, a lot of great points there, Alice, you know, going back to where you started, you started talking about you weren’t afraid to challenge your leaders or your partner’s early on as a store manager. And I think that that might be It’s a fine line, right? Because when you challenge your leader or you challenge the decisions, you have to understand that Make sure you reflect on yourself and your motivations. Are you challenging because you don’t want to do it? Or are you challenging because you can? You either have a better idea or ah, better way to do it. Do the process. That’s the key. And you know, it’s cliche to say, you know, on Lee, go to your own to go to your boss. If you have solutions now, let’s just be real. I personally think that that’s bullshit. If you wait for your team members to get comfortable enough to come to you to discuss a problem until they have a solution, I mean, you’re gonna miss out on a lot of problems that you could help solve. So the problem-solving process is a partnership as the employees When you’re rolling up or you’re disagreeing or you’re raising your hand and saying You know why are we doing this? Is there a better way to do this right? Make sure you’re open-minded and willing to be part of the solution. Nobody wants to be surrounded. Nobody wants to have a team full of people that just say no, that’s not right the right way to do it. Well, what’s the right way to do it? I don’t know. But that’s not the right way. Well, you know, if you can’t bring a better idea of the table, then we’re just gonna roll with this. So check out your intent, check your intentions and check your ego. But store managers and other leaders we gotta check our egos also right when and realize that when Alice is coming and saying, Hey, this could be different, right? Or hey, I don’t understand this or why did we do it this way? Can we do it that way? It’s not because she’s attacking you. If it’s your idea, she’s not attacking you. She’s looking for a better way to solve the problem. So separate that and make sure that your ego is set aside as well. Um, What do you think, Alice? That I miss anything there?        

No, I don’t think you did. Um, I think, Ah, a lot of times we have an ego problem. And when somebody brings something up, a lot of leaders were taken personally. You know, I think there were some times in the past when one of my, um, leaders came to me and said, Well, Alice, I don’t believe in that. I think that makes no sense. And I’ve already caught myself in motion like What do you mean? Do you know? What do you mean? We got to do better here, so I know it. I lived through that and it happens. So it’s very it is difficult sometimes when you know you are the leader and somebody is second-guessing your decision or basically challenging you. But just check yourself as you said, and understand that your employees have their best interest in the business as hard as well. We just might say it in a different way.            

Absolutely so then the next step is OK, so we’ve created an environment where our team members are comfortable bringing us problems. So what’s next? And I think that moves forward to as a leader. How do you work through these problems together? I think the article talks about defining the process together. Make that a partnership. So okay, I hear what you’re saying, and I hear where you want us to be different. So now let’s layout this process to fix it again. Just be a partner in the solution. The biggest piece, though the biggest piece that I see there is celebrating the agitation. You’ve got it. If you ever want to create a culture of anything, you’ve got to celebrate the winds. Whatever you want to see more of celebrated. So if you want to create a culture where your team members have the courage and can speak up on disagreement and help the best problems help the best solutions. Make it to the top. Celebrate the ones that I think. Alice. I think you said the make a ruckus, right? So celebrate the agitation. Is there anything you wanna add there, Alice?       

One of the lines in the article that always stuck out to me and it still does. It says leadership, after all, is about solving problems. And as I looked through my journey in my role in my purchase rolls, there are always problems, and I think we just have to be okay, being uncomfortable. You gotta get past that. And our job is to always solve problems. So I think just embracing it and understanding that we don’t live in a perfect world. I think that’s super huge. Well, super big and celebrate the agitation. I think there’s another line here, says, Celebrate the heart fought newly learned things. You know, I don’t have too much to add beyond that, but you just have to create that environment and you gotta be okay. And you gotta think, employees for being able to speak up and really challenge the way we think.     

Yes, I could not agree more. You know, one of my favorite lines from the article is divergent. Dissident voices are the key to growth and innovation. So think about that. If everyone always agrees with the process, you’re only going to get what you’ve always had. So if you ever want to grow and evolve as a store or as an organization, you have to seek out. The people that aren’t afraid to raise their hand, aren’t afraid to make a ruckus. So that’s one of my favorite lines from the article there than the last paragraph right in, Bold says. Not complainers but champions. And that’s the key. Under you have to change the perception of people that raise their hand and push back. So a lot of organizations might look at these people as complainers. But you can’t. You have to say They just think Put yourself in their shoes, show some empathy, right, understand their point of view. I think about how hard it is to raise, especially if you’re in an organization or a store where there’s not a culture of pushing back or culture of raise your hand and making a ruckus. Think about how hard that is for that person to do that, I understand that they are under tremendous pressure, also from the set from their Selves to raise their hands. Say, Hey, this could be better and for them to do that they’re stepping outside of their comfort zone because they care about your store because they care about your organization. So that is a champion. That, to me is more so a champion than someone that just agrees and says yes, yes, yes, Alice, That’s great, Yes, Unless I love what you did. Yes, I love the way you folded that shirt or I love the way you made that table, right. It’s the ones that say Hey, you know, does this have to be that that brand on that table? I know that that that book that we get every month says that we have to put that brand on that table, but I mean, our Mel’s a little bit different. What do you think about doing this? Can we make a case around that? And instead of saying no, we have to follow the rules, but and that might be true, they might. That table might not be able to change, but can you say we actually can’t touch that real estate right there. But I love with your minds that I love your creativity. And I love that you think outside the box. So where else could we do that story? It’s Where else could we set up that story that you were talking about? Some. I mean, that’s my two cents right there. Um, Alice, I don’t really have anything else. This week was a quick episode. Did I miss anything?

No, but I just want to comment on something. And when you said that line earlier regarding divergent and dissident voices are the key to growth and innovation, I’m just gonna be quite frank. I didn’t know what divergent meant. I didn’t know what this idiot met either. So I googled it. So divergent means different. And dissident means opposes the policy. So it’s not just like, you know, when I looked, I was like, Oh, wow. It definitely hit home more because I understood the word after looking at up. But it’s okay to be different. And I love that. It stated that I love that you brought that up. I don’t want to backtrack too much, but it’s okay to not understand these words, but really to take time to really look it up and then really get to know the definition of that word. So it definitely hit home for me when I had to google it. So I have to be very transparent, kind of share that. But, you know, I think you said earlier it’s celebrating when our managers do. You have the voice to speak up, and maybe sometimes it won’t work. But you have to be very genuine. And you can’t just say, Well, I don’t want my team to be a bunch of Yes, man, You know, I want my team to bring up different ideas and we say it. But we got it. Ensure that were active were acting upon what we’re saying as well. You don’t want to come off like you’re trying to create a different culture, but you’re acting like your normal self and not embracing that. But I think you display that perfectly. Brennan like, Hey, there are certain rules that we have to ensure that we have to display this display, but where else can we do that? Let me really challenge you to think differently and really get our managers to identify the solution, but really getting them to dig deep and think differently to ensure that their point gets across. I think that really developed their skill set to really think outside the box. And, you know, Brennan, like with our partnership, you and I. I think sometimes when we don’t agree on something, we say Okay, so whatever you do about this, let’s talk it through because we both have different ways of thinking. And there is something different people in the world that we have Thio be able to hear each other out.

That’s a great point when you’re a store manager or any leader in an organization, you have to remember. You know, a lot of times were just rolling out. We’re rolling out. Policies were rolling out. We’re just following up on expectations and standards within the organization. And so there’s a lot of times that we have to say no to things and say no to cause we need consistency. Most organizations want a level of consistency across their brand, and I’m sure that a lot of times we say no to our team, but we just really got to be aware you know. How many times have I said no to this person? Like, you know, you gotta help him find a win. So sometimes you gotta just you got to help your people find a win, and you might if you disagreed three times. And if your opinion is 13 times in a row, that next idea you might just need to compromise before you risk losing the creativity that that person has or the engagement that that person has. Alice did you was there a quote? Was there a quote in this article that you like that you wanted to share? Maybe to close us out?

Yes, definitely. It was actually by Colin Powell. He stated the day your people stopped bringing you their problems. You have stopped leading them. And I never thought of it like that. And I am telling you that is a very powerful line. And it’s something that I’m going to continue to think of because the moment my team goes silent, I feel like I lost my team. That’s not okay.

I think that’s all we got. I’m Alice. You everything you want to add?

No, that’s it. Another great podcast.

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