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You’re leading a meeting with your team and are updating them on a less-than-ideal situation. As soon as you finish, you know it is coming. The response from your team can take many forms. I strive to be a servant leader who values transparency so I am open to any feedback at any time.
One response sometimes frustrates me. It is what I call “idealistic grandstanding”. You can also refer to it as an “unproductive soapbox”.
It usually starts with a member of your team saying, “I believe…” and laying out multiple concepts that would apply if it were a perfect world. All the concepts are true and right. Everyone on the team rationally agrees with them.
There are cases that the idealistic riff uncovers new ideas and paths that are worthy of consideration. But, in my experience, the speech is mostly designed for that person to somehow claim some sort of high ground where there really is none.
As the leader of the team you must listen and respond. Your response usually takes two forms. First is to isolate some of the key points and explain how one or more initiatives that are in progress are addressing those very points. Too often this is reinforcing things that the grandstander should already know. Second is to explain that while some of the key points are valid, they are not things being addressed at this time. More than likely, they may be beyond the control of this team or there may simply be other goals that are of higher priority at the moment. Again, my experience is that the grandstander already knows this.
If it happens once, then it is not a big deal. However, some are more apt to try and seize the floor for grandstanding than others.
The truth is that we all do our share of idealistic grandstanding. I know I am particularly guilty of this. Often it is in the form of a vent triggered by a less-than-ideal situation.
In general, I don’t like idealistic grandstanding because it is not productive. All it generally does is remind the audience of how imperfect the situation is. It is just words and not actions.
So, what is my point?
When you realize you are starting to make a speech or vent, take a strategic pause. If you are just repeating a speech you’ve made before, do you think your audience really wants to hear it? More importantly, what are you going to do about it versus just talking about it? You are passionate enough about it to make a speech, but are you passionate enough about it to turn it into action? Are you passionate enough to work with your team to better the situation if you can?
Going forward, I promise to watch my idealistic grandstanding/soapboxing/venting. Will you do the same?