Can A Leader Recover From Even the Most Reactive Comments?

The family went to dinner last week and ran into a previous supervisor of mine. We exchanged pleasantries, updated each other on family happenings (many grandchildren for him, Bill's heart surgery for us) and had a nice conversation.

Whenever I think of this one supervisor, I always come back to a meeting a few years back. In an unguarded, very frustrating moment, he let loose with a reactive, in-your-face, less than 20 word comment about his management team. I was part of his management team and we were all in the room.

The comment was a suck-the-air-out-of-the-room-did-I-say-that-out-loud kind of comment. It was an I-do- not-have-to-take-this-I-am-quitting-on-Monday-drive-home-through-the-tears kind of comment. I didn't quit on Monday and, after some (healing) time, realized that I had forgotten whose sandbox I was playing in. I was doing what I thought needed to be done and not what my boss wanted me to do. 

Life went on, I eventually left the company and we run into each other periodically. We always have pleasant conversations, yet each and every time I see him, that one meeting comes back to me. In that meeting, he lost some ground with me and I am not sure he will ever completely recover from that in my eyes. (Yes, this is all about me!)

As I move through my day, I have a fear that I will speak something that I am unable to recover from.  Fear may actually be too strong of a word, it is a more of a strong awareness or constant consciousness.  I know that what I say (or not say) and how I choose to say it (or not say it) can impact others either negatively or positively. This awareness causes me stop, think, and breathe - and not talk - when I am upset.

The big question for me now is, am I not saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, so that it is heard?

I wonder.