How do you handle the complaints lobbed at you as a leader?
When my book, Sustainable Excellence, Ten Principles To Leading Your Uncommon and Extraordinary Life, was published, I was excited to receive feedback from people who had read it.
Of the over 50 reviews Sustainable Excellence has received on Amazon, all but two are 5-stars. The two that were not 5-stars were written by people outside the United States who admitted they liked the book, but because of cultural differences, didn't understand some of the stories.
Initially, I was disappointed with the two 3-star reviews from these individuals but came to realize that no matter how hard we try to put forth our best effort, sometimes, it just doesn't resonate with certain people.
Early in my business career, I had the privilege of working with a dynamic and smart leader who was the Chief Operating Officer of the hospital where I worked, Nancy Schlichting. I learned a great deal from Nancy, especially about handling complaints.
Regardless of how emotional the person complaining was or how ludicrous the complaint might be, Nancy always handled the situation with this 5-step process:
1. She listened - Nancy always gave her full attention to what the person was saying. She made eye contact and shook her head in the affirmative to let the person know she understood what was being said.
2. She asked for clarification - If there was something she didn't comprehend, Nancy would ask clarifying questions to make sure she had the facts correct.
3. She restated what was said - To make sure she and the person making the complaint were on the same page, she would restate what she heard and ask the person if her understanding was correct.
4. She explained her decision process - Nancy was great at laying out how she had come to make the decision she did in a way that people could understand. (Notice I said understand because many times the person would not agree with her conclusions or decision).
5. She was honest - Nancy never deviated from the truth. If the answer to their complaint was, "No," then she told the person the hospital would not be doing that. She never passed the buck or told someone the complaint or problem would be studied if she had no intention of studying it.
People didn't always agree with the decisions that Nancy made and why she made them, but employees always felt listened to, respected, and that they received an honest answer to their complaints.
Nancy would go on to retire as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan. She is also an accomplished author, having written the book, Unconventional Leadership, and is on numerous boards.
We can learn a great deal from how Nancy Schlichting handled complaints.
Please check out the video below to learn more techniques for handling complaints. Also, leave me a comment about any particular techniques you use to effectively handle concerns from staff or customers.
Author & Motivational Speaker
Terry is a sought after speaker who believes in the power of a story to motivate, inspire, and help others lead their uncommon and extraordinary lives. By combining his eleven-year cancer journey with his diverse business, athletic coaching, and hostage negotiating expertise, he delivers compelling yet relatable presentations for conferences, on-line events, panels, meetings, and seminars.