I was on one of the many  People/Business/HR forums I monitor  and came across a post asking how to deal with ‘insubordinate employees’. What a loaded question!

How could a Naked Leader not respond to that! Here is my little rant.Enjoy!

“Firstly – define insubordinate…  Just the use of this terminology indicates that the leader’s ego is engaged and not in a good way.

Far too many leaders get precious about feedback. If your people cannot be open and honest with you-even blunt-you have failed already.

One of my favourite quotes is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt (but is actually much older than that): To paraphrase it- “No-one can insult you without your permission.”

If you are an effective, emotionally mature leader (or human) it will be almost impossible to be offended by anyone. The fact that you feel offended or see their behaviour as ‘insubordinate’ means that you have made the transaction about you – not the problem at hand.

Here’s a clue from Naked Leadership®: Leadership is not about you it is about them…

The term insubordinate means literally that you perceive that they are no longer ‘subordinate to you’ i.e. they have dared to address you as an equal. This smacks of insecurity and arrogance.

What I suggest to all of my clients and seminar attendees is that if one of your employees walks up to you and says: “You suck!” Or words to that effect, rather than getting all upset, you simply reply: ”Thanks for the feedback. Can you explain in exactly what way I suck?”

This has two immediate effects: it reflects back to the person what they have just said and disarms them because they are expecting a fight and it allows you to question them further to find out the source of their discontent. No normal person takes this kind of extreme (and almost certainly job threatening) action without a very good reason.

A good leader practices mental Aikido. They move out of the way of the attack and assess their adversary.

It has been my experience over quite a few decades as a leader and as a coach that if we engage the complainers rather than reacting to them, we might find that they are the only people willing to tell us the truth. I stress to my clients that they seek out what we here call the ‘whingers’ and find out what is bothering them. It is rarely without justification.

The aviation industry long ago learned to decrease as much as possible, the ‘power gradient’ between the Captain and the rest of the crew. A power gradient builds mistrust, fear of speaking up and creates an inability to determine a problem before is has negative effects. It can directly lead to accidents with catastrophic results.

A leader must have the ability to take all manner of feedback and dispassionately evaluate it. We have to be open to the idea that we can be wrong.

So the question is: If you are easily offended by employee comments-should you really be a leader? I would suggest that the answer is no.

If you take the time to Ask Questions and Shut up and Listen (Naked Clue #2)® you may find that there is key information in their discontent.

As a leader you have to be the Coach and the Umpire. You have to be emotionally Disconnected from any situation in order to make good judgements.

If people can trust you enough to be honest, even brutally so, you have an opportunity to fix whatever is wrong before it spreads the damage – in effect: to get out in front of the challenge and focus on prevention.

In other words… to Lead….