Richard McLaughlin Shares His Story About Managing Toxic Triangles to Solve Complex Problems and Reduce Chronic Anxiety

Business Leaders are tasked with solving complex and intriguing challenges almost daily. In this edition of the RL Spotlight, a client of ours, Richard McLaughlin, shares his story of a significant challenge he faced and how one of the core practices of Resilient Leadership contributed to his ultimate success!

Richard McLaughlin

Here is how Richard described the situation that led to his decision to reach out to us for support: "As the lead operations executive of a Global Contract Services company, we successfully negotiated a system wide contract sale to manage the food service and housekeeping operations of 55 hospitals over five years for a National Hospital Operations Organization. This contract agreement was negotiated by the Hospital Systems Supply Chain leaders. While the supply chain and hospital corporate leaders were eager to have our support in operating these services more cost effectively, the Hospital Administrators themselves saw this agreement as a threat to their autonomy as they did not participate in the decision making or negotiating of the contract. Previously they were able to decide locally who would operate these departments in their hospitals."

In Resilient Leadership, one of the Core Practices we teach is how to Manage Triangles.

Triangles are inevitable and are the foundation of every relationship system. It's how triangles are managed that makes them healthy or toxic.

In this example, the three components of the triangle are the Corporate leaders / supply chain leaders, the Hospital Administrators (and their staff,) and Richard (and his team.) This situation is ripe with opportunities for the creation of what can become "toxic triangles." The supply chain leadership sought economies of scale and cost savings, the local hospital leadership struggled with a lack of control, and Richard and his team had to deal with many triangles formed by shifting and different priorities of all stakeholders. Richard and his team could very quickly find themselves struggling in any number of toxic triangles. A new way of Seeing, Thinking and Leading were required or Richard and his team could fail.

Having had previous experience with Resilient Leadership training and coaching, Richard brought in Jim Moyer to teach his team how to manage triangles before he initiated the contract agreement. Among other RL principles, Jim taught the team how to recognize triangles in relationships, how conflict creates toxic triangles, and how to avoid getting caught in a toxic triangle that makes it difficult to think clearly. This proactive training gave Richard's team the awareness it needed to avoid being blindsided by either of the other parties involved.

Understanding triangles improved the team's ability to communicate openly and reduced the amount of chronic anxiety that naturally occurs in any relationship system with such challenging dynamics. This led to several innovative communication techniques and processes that have been used in many similar situations by the team.”

Visit this page often to learn from other people how the Resilient Leadership model has transformed their careers and lives. If you'd like to learn more about Resilient Leadership, email Jim Moyer at