What will your best people think?

Within every organization, and team… and sometimes a group of friends or family… there tend to be one or two folks who are prone to drama. These folks would never admit it, but they relish in the ‘water cooler’ talk. Of course, it’s a spectrum and ideally if it’s within an organization, you work towards creating a culture where this behavior is recognized as trivial; however, it always exists to a certain extent. There’s a reason many people love reality TV – it’s entertaining!

In the first few years at Avanti, there was a tremendous amount of change happening. And whenever we were considering some form of meaningful change, whether it was a shift in org structure, promoting a new leader, exiting a leader, or something about the physical office location (e.g., moving downtown), we unintentionally would default to asking ourselves, what would person X say? And person X was often the person most prone to drama. We knew that this individual(s) was going to have a lot to say about whatever changes were going on, and so we got into a bad habit of first considering how they would react. Fortunately, we didn’t allow it to sway our actual decision-making; we did, however, waste thought and consideration on over-empathizing with their potential reaction.

Then I received some excellent advice: stop considering how the loudest voice(s) will react and start considering how the people you really care about will react. How will your top performers react? How will your leaders react? The quiet, reserved individual you believe might make an incredible future leader and never participates in the drama: how is she going to react to the news? It helped re-frame discussions around communicating meaningful change. It’s a relatively simple shift in mindset but one that really stuck with me.