As a corporate executive, Jackie Barretta led many technology teams. Some of those employees feared for their jobs.
In one team meeting, Barretta entered the room a few minutes early. Anxiety engulfed the group.
She overheard team members griping about their employer’s decision to outsource a nearby data center. One of them labeled the company’s top brass as “blithering idiots” while others added their own snarky comments.
Distracted by the threat of job loss, the team couldn’t focus on pressing work priorities. They were so demoralized that they had allowed themselves to fall behind schedule on an important project spearheaded by Barretta.
As team leader, she could have pounded her fist on the table and said, “Forget about all that and concentrate on this project!” Instead, Barretta decided to acknowledge everyone’s fear. She figured that by confronting the source of their concern head-on, they would leave the meeting in a less distracted state.
“The threat of outsourcing is real, so take it seriously,” she told the group. “But it’s not going to happen tomorrow.”
Bluntly addressing the team’s fear lifted the group’s spirits and shifted their attention to what they could control: stepping up their collective effort to get the project back on track.
“Once I confirmed everyone’s suspicion that bad news could arrive at any time, their conscious minds agreed they could do nothing about that threat but that they could do something about the work at hand,” she says.
—Adapted from Primal Teams, Jackie Barretta, AMACOM.