Attack the System, not the Person - A Leadership Communication Concept

by Sandra Zimmer

I like to get what I want and I also like to empower other people.  When I can do both at the same time, I am really happy! One of my favorite core concepts for leadership communication is what I call “attack the system, not the person.”

When you are frustrated because you are not getting what you want from co-workers or employees, stop and think about what you really want.  Ask yourself what is missing from your system that allows the frustration to continue and what system can be created in order to get what you want.

Instead of confronting the person, confront the system. Create a process that will fix the problem, make things work the way you want them to work and prevent yourself from future frustration.

Once you know what system is needed, ask the person involved to help you create a system that will work for both of you.  Chances are that the other person also is frustrated and recognizes that something is not working. This communication concept offers no blame, no shame, no one is made wrong.  Only the system is attacked, not the person.  And Voila! Instantly you empower the other person to solve a problem for you and you get what you want.

One of my clients is the President of a growing company.  She has been frustrated for weeks about the fact that some of her employees were not communicating fully with clients.  Serious problems had arisen in servicing their clients. In fact, one of her biggest clients actually pointed his finger in her face, told her she had a problem and she had better fix it.  She has been struggling with how to tell her employees that they are not doing a good job and how to train them to communicate more effectively. 

In a coaching session, she completely transformed her experience of the issue when we looked at the situation not as a personnel problem but as a system problem.  She identified what was missing in the system that would allow information to be shared among employees and clients. Within two days, she had empowered her employees to co-create a new communication system.  Her employees were thrilled at the connection she established with them.  She got what she wanted and everyone in her company was happy.


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