Today’s Leadership Minute was written by: Sandra Harbrecht, President and CEO, Paul Werth Associates
It seems that almost daily we read a story where a brand, a leader or a celebrity has made an ill-advised statement that causes backlash and a social media storm. It could be an elected official or TV talk show host, a small business owner or global brand. Today, nobody is immune.
The question that challenges me isn’t whether the voices and their statements are right or wrong, but rather why do these missteps keep happening?
I believe it’s a matter of discernment. Put another way, it’s acknowledging that we all have blind spots – myself included – and we need a clear line of sight to reveal what’s behind these blind spots if we are to make better decisions.
That moment we feel compelled to speak, act and share our opinion is precisely the time we should hit pause – especially if we are the voice and face of a company, a brand, or a diverse group of constituents or employees.
It’s after hitting pause where we have an opportunity for intelligent intake rather than impulsively imparting opinion that may be masquerading as fact. Is this statement or action consistent with our organization’s message and values? How might those who work with and for us interpret this? Could it be offensive to customers and fans, investors or donors?
This is easier said than done, which is why we need individuals who are markedly different from us to reveal our blind spots. That includes people in our organizations with a stake in the game and those with an outside perspective who have nothing to lose by being honest and blunt.
If we aspire to a 360-degree view that is void of blind spots, we need to commit to listening carefully and with intent … to our people, our audiences, existing and prospective customers, even those who might not share our perspective. What do they care about? What can we learn? How do we do better? This is at the heart of communications best practices that benefit every communication we send.
Social and digital media can be instant gratification tools. We need to resist that impulse. Instead hit pause. Listen and engage others. Do research and fact-find. We’ll either validate or iterate our thinking.
If we commit to doing these things, we’ll likely find that our blind spots get smaller and our public missteps become fewer.