Under Fire in a Public Meeting

Stunt man on fire

Public confrontation slams you in the face, sooner or later. The boss wants answers. “What happened and what are you doing about it?”

Everyone tenses and waits.

Colleagues feel sympathy and relief. Everyone knows they could be next.

Two defining moments:

Public success and fiery confrontation are the two defining moments of leadership. Success tests humility. Confrontation tests humility and more.

What you do during confrontation defines you.

First question:

Has the CEO publicly confront others in meetings? Breathe a sigh of relief if she has and if they’re still on the team.

Two extremes:

Passive or aggressive responses suggest weakness. Don’t play dead and never attack. Cool response under fire says you’re a leader others can follow.

7 Temptations:

  1. Defending.
  2. Over promising. Never promise to deliver something unless you’re certain you can.
  3. Blaming.
  4. Evading.
  5. Lying.
  6. Minimizing.
  7. Excusing.

Give the facts not excuses. Explain:

  1. What happened?
  2. What you did or didn’t do.
  3. Corrective action.

7 Tips when you feel the flame:

  1. Open your hands under the table, palms up. (At least open your hands.)
  2. Say “we” not “they.” “I” is better.
  3. Don’t apologize unless you screwed up.
  4. Don’t expect others to save you.
  5. Don’t put others on the spot.
  6. Take immediate corrective action.
  7. Keep others in the loop. You may be tempted to pull away and clam up. It’s better to open up.

CEO frustrations:

Know what frustrates your CEO and answer it. 300 CEOs were surveyed concerning their frustrations:

  1. 82% feel the team isn’t acting with enough urgency.
  2. 71% feel frustrated about lack of meaningful data.
  3. 64% feel like they aren’t in control of organizational direction.
  4. 45% aren’t satisfied with their executive teams performance.
  5. 38% have been blinded sided by negative surprises in the last 90 days.

How can leaders best handle being under fire from a boss, CEO, or the board?