My staff are at war following our strategic retreat. Help!

Dear Aunty B,

We just went on a strategic retreat and it was a disaster. My sales director went on about sales and refused to discuss anything else, claiming that nothing else mattered (he hasn’t met budget).

Some people sulked and refused to even contribute. I ended up losing my temper (a bit) and was then accused of “lacking rapport”!

We have always had great strategic retreats. What’s happening?


Lacking Rapport,


Dear Lacking Rapport,


Hmmm. You sound like the type of leader who does well in a boom – gungho and positive. But in a downturn, when conditions get tougher, you need to develop some new skills.

I am not sure what your staff mean by “lacking rapport”. It could mean you are not listening to them. This can be dangerous as they could be trying to tell you about the company and you may be refusing to hear what they are saying. Or it could be that they are not feeling listened to. (Different things if you stop to think about it.)

First thing I would do is organise performance reviews so that you have a chance to individually engage with staff in a normal context.

You need to look not only at their performance but what they are picking up from the marketplace. Do they think targets are unrealistic? Are they concerned about the future of the business?

Is there anything going on internally that you are not picking up?

I would also work on your “soft skills” such as how to manage conflict and use reflective questions.

Last thing I would do is find an excuse to celebrate. Pick anything, organise a lunch, and have fun.

One of the best pieces of advice I got from an entrepreneur is “Business is tough. Find an excuse to celebrate anything.”

Good Luck.

Your Aunty B.

Aunty B - Your problems answered by SmartCompany's business bitch

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