How Leaders Resolve Issues – Listening for the Rub

How Leaders Resolve Issues – Listening for the Rub

A while back an employee who was a fairly recent hire came to me saying he had been contacted by a company and had been offered a job. He hadn’t sought it out, but now here it was and he had to make a decision. He said he was leaning towards accepting it.

As we talked, I did my best salesman job and reminded him of the benefits of working with us…more variety, coworkers he admittedly liked and enjoyed, and more stability than he would find in most positions in his line of work. He agreed and knew he would likely be risking several key job satisfaction factors if he accepted the offer. He eventually mentioned that the only reason he was interested in this other position was that it was a much shorter commute. He was happy with his current job, but didn’t like the long drive, especially in winter.

And there was the “rub” – the little thing that all the rest hinged on.

This potential new job was located just a few miles from home, but currently he was commuting 40+ miles one-way. The commute was his “rub”. Once I knew this to be the case, it was simple to resolve the problem and retain him as an employee. We simply allowed him to work from home several days each week.

Leaders resolve issues by listening for the “rub”.

I have learned that in working with people it is always worth asking further questions when you meet resistance, disagreement, or even conflict. I am not satisfied with knowing someone doesn’t want to do something, or disagrees with the direction of the team, etc., I want to know why. If I know why, then we can solve the problem or resolve the issue.


It’s a reasonable question to ask.

Professionals in any field ought to be able to, and be expected to, clearly state the reason for their resistance. They may not always be able to put it in clear, concise language, but they should be able and willing to express it and work towards clarity.

But, as with the employee with the job offer, sometimes you have to read their responses and help them work to clarify their resistance. Is it tradition? Do they feel slighted? Is it simply because it’s change? Do they feel threatened? Why are they resisting? You have to read between the lines sometimes to find the “rub”.

Leaders avoid issues by paying attention to their own “rub”.

I know this because I have to do it to myself. When I feel myself resisting, especially when it is instinctive, I take some time to digest my instincts and feelings and make sure it’s not just what Seth Godin calls the lizard brain.

I ask myself: What is the real problem? Why am I resistant? Have I really thought through the alternatives and given them a fair shake?

Push past the surface and ancillary issues to find the one thing, the one objection that needs to be overcome.

Find the “rub”, address it and move on.

-How about you? How do you work with your team to narrow issues down to the “rub”?