It’s a kind of magic…
I saw magic happen last week. Right in front of my eyes. And whilst a magician doesn’t usually like to share their tricks, I watched this leader very carefully so I could share their craft.
Let me set the stage. I was facilitating a workplace restorative justice conference. There had been a series of significant malicious acts directed at one employee by a number of colleagues. The organisation wanted to take responsibility for the impact that had had on this employee. It also wanted the organisation to own up and accept responsibility for its role in the situation.
The Restorative Justice Conference was an opportunity for the employee to meet a senior leader in the organisation, to share what happened, and have the leader acknowledge the employee’s experience and apologise on behalf of the organisation. Before bringing the parties together I coached them in individual preparation sessions.
The degree of difficulty for that Senior Leader was immense. In preparation we spoke about her purpose, the impact she wanted to have and how she needed to ‘be’ to achieve that for this employee and the organisation.
This is magic I saw her do in the room. These are the things she did in the moment at the table that allowed for relationship rebuild in a real way:
- She had clarity of her role in that room – to rebuild the relationship. In so doing she was managing risk.
- She treated the employee like an equal immediately. By her body language alone she removed hierarchy from the room.
- She listened. No I mean really listened. The employee spoke for 30 minutes before the Senior Leader entered into genuine dialogue and it was about an hour before any opinion was offered.
- She turned off her “problem solving brain” and let herself be mindful and present in the aggrieved employees experience.
- She apologised as a Senior Leader and as a person to the employee and their loved ones for the impact.
She invited the employee to brainstorm improvement ideas and took responsibility for following them up.
The effects of magic
What got the standing ovation from me was the fact that this Senior Leader took the employment relationship and the associated responsibilities seriously and was brave enough to say “we let you down, we can do better by you and others”. She would probably say she wasn’t brave but merely doing the right thing. In my opinion, in the generally conservative modern workplaces of Australia, to do the right thing you need to be brave.
The effect was like MAGIC. On the leader, on the employee and on the organisation. Of course we know like so many things in life, magic happens through hard work and a deeply considered approach.
Does your organisation approach conflict this way? Are you confident that the leaders in your organisation could effectively participate in relationship rebuilding? Are your leaders capable of magic?