President Trump has left. A new administration starts. But if you’re a leader struggling with the backlash from the “ candid talks ” you may have had about the January 6 riots at the US Capitol and the events leading up to it, you may still be in the middle of things.
You are not alone.
“We hit a nerve here,” said Michael Bush, CEO of Great Place To Work, and the author of a blog post about the riots called Don’t call yourself a leader to everyone if you don’t do these things today. In it, he gave good advice on discussing the riot with employees with an important framework: “To be honest, I am still processing what I saw, but one thing I know for sure: this is not the time for leaders to be quiet.”
Apparently people spoke immediately.
His blog post saw record traffic, but also a record number of unsubscribes and angry emails – followed by phone calls – that were far more negative than the usual back and forth he receives about tackling systemic racism at the corporate level. He suspects that the response came from leaders–in this case mostly white and republican–are asked to re-evaluate the road they identify in a political context. “In my experience, they can say things about social justice … that you’re going to increase representation … and say all those things that seemed bold and brave at the time,” Bush said. “But really, you, your team and your board have never had to do anything completely different. That makes this a third rail moment. ”
He stands by his post and his advice, but adds an important reminder. When you talk about the riot and the events that led to it, “describe some you saw on the steps of the Capitol and talk about knowing other people saw it differently. “Recognizing that a different perspective can lower the temperature and restore an element of empathy, even in a divided workplace.
“Transformational leaders are looking at how they can influence others,” he says. “Unfortunately, many of them try to change other people’s opinions, which, you know, is quite a task.” But the job now is to encourage people to stay in touch with the leadership, their colleagues, and the values that define your partnership. While this moment may be uniquely fraught because (mostly) whites are upset, the path forward is the same. Find ways to encourage deep introspection as a leadership practice. “Are you willing to wonder what you believe and why you believe it?” he says. “Are you willing to see how your lived experiences affect what you see and what you believe?” Then the empathy piece. “Are you willing to think about the fact that other people you work with, based on their lived experiences, see exactly the same thing differently?”
For leaders under attack, don’t give up, Bush says, but think about ways you can continue to use the “look it different” framework to stay on track.
“You know, CEOs are all magicians,” he says. “This is a gift they have. That’s why they’re in that chair. They can lead people to believe in something that doesn’t even exist yet. No product or code has been created or written and they can talk about a vision and people believe it. “
The reasons people think the US election was stolen are difficult for him to dissect, he says. Very difficult. “I know they certainly believe it without facts and data.” But, he says, a lot of other things that people think are difficult to parse, and it’s time we dig back in. “Some people believe what they believe about women, people of color and especially black people – that they raise the bar in terms of talent in the workplace, that the gaps in performance are personal shortcomings, and some [people of color] feel we have to accept this. We have to find a way to talk about all this. ”
This is where a little bit of executive magic can really help. “What is your vision for a workplace where people can explore what they believe and why they believe it with openness, curiosity and respect?” he asks. “It’s a gift we all need right now.”