Articles tagged "Necessary Conversations"
The following is a quick and dirty overview of my leadership model: The Five Stages of Focused Leadership Development®
If you haven’t read it yet, read Adam Bryant’s book: Quick and Nimble – Lessons from Leading C.E.O.’s on How to Create a Culture of Innovation. His insights are important for my readers and clients because they so nicely echo several core leadership concepts I share with my clients during my programs or executive coaching sessions with them.
In his book, Bryant covers six key ideas to create a culture of innovation and nimbleness. I’ll list Bryant’s terms and then mine:
- Why is it so hard for so many managers to simply talk with their employees about less-than-expected performance?
- Why do so many managers become mean when they simply need to make employees aware their behaviors are taking them down the path towards disciplinary actions or possibly -- termination?
- Why do so many managers default to "attack mode" instead of "talk mode" to tell employees they are performing in unacceptable ways?
From my experience, the reasons vary. However, there are two very common reasons. The first reason is that managers tend to model "disciplinary" behaviors they've seen or experienced themselves. They model snarky, sneaky (i.e., passive-aggressive), or just plain mean behaviors in attacking, belittling, and demeaning the employees who have frustrated them. They equate letting employees know they're performing in unacceptable ways with slamming the employees. They take a sledgehammer approach instead of a highlighter approach to make the employees aware they're performance is not acceptable. They attack in a big way instead of teaching with insight.
The second most common reason for the attack mode I see is: Fear. Fear of having a "difficult conversation" with an employee. The manager anticipates a potentially, emotion-filled interaction that may result in hostility, tears, yelling, or hurt feelings. So, to "gear up" for such an interaction, many managers put on their "attack gear." They get themselves worked up emotionally and mentally. They hold off meeting with employees until they have several examples of poor behavior so they can build a strong case against the employee. Their own frustration level increases because the employees "just continue to perform poorly." They attack with proof instead of teaching with small, incremental examples along the way.
So what should you do when your employees do not perform as expected or in unacceptable ways? Tell them right away. Tell them immediately when you see them do something that is clearly unacceptable. If they're violating some policy, procedure or law, You obviously need to deal with that immediately. However, if your employees are under-performing or behaving in ways that will lead them astray, tell them. Clue them in. Talk with them regularly so they become aware, but more so, so they get comfortable with you regularly refocusing and guiding them. If they only hear from you when you've built a case against them, why shouldn't they feel blindsided? Why shouldn't they get defensive and possibly become hostile or have hurt feelings? You set them up. Talk with them regularly. Don't attack them.
I've shared this idea before, but I'll share it again because I've seen it work with many of my clients. If you do nothing else, stop thinking of conversations with your employees about unacceptable performance as "difficult conversations." That term alone brings to mind the anxiety and negative emotions outlined above. Instead, think of conversations you need to have with your employees about their performance as "Necessary Conversations™." They're necessary because you need to clue your employees in now. They're necessary because if they don't occur, your employees are likely to continue down an unacceptable path of behavior. They're necessary because it's part of your job to teach, inform, refocus, and guide your employees - not slam them. They're necessary because they'll help you talk with your employees instead of attack your employees.
Copyright MMXVIII, MMXIII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.
Take a look around your office. Look at your desk. Look at your email In-Box. As you look at the various piles of papers and streams of emails, ask yourself, "What am I dodging? What am I trying to delay? What problems, issues, or projects am I finding excuses to avoid? From what am I intentionally (Though I claim it's unintentional) hiding?"
If you're getting nervous by any of the questions above, you're probably avoiding Procrastination Leadership. Procrastination Leadership is a term I've coined to describe that leadership trait that causes effective leaders to address what others fear; to initiate what others avoid; and to complete what others delay. It's that characteristic of overcoming your innate desire to continue to stall, because you've identified those things that are important enough to stay on your To Do list, even though you've been avoiding them. It's that ability to instead tell yourself, "I'm the leader. It's my job to do something about this." Then choosing to forge ahead and do it. It's deciding to bite the bullet and do what needs to be done.
Procrastination Leadership addresses things such as:
- Having Necessary Conversations™ with under-performing staff
- Holding meetings with antagonistic colleagues to clear the air and achieve understanding
- Reviewing difficult documents, texts, and reports to wade through the heavy material so you can move it to the next person waiting for the information
- Sitting down with team members to layout needed project plans or revamp poorly-performing projects
- Meeting with board members to clarify roles, responsibilities, and boundaries
- Working on tasks expected of a leader instead of working on those that should be handled by staff
Procrastination Leadership is recognizing and then acting upon those various difficult tasks that you, as a leader, are charged with handling; those tasks that you are being paid to address; and those tasks your strong team members have been waiting for you to address.
Don't make them wait any longer. Take on Procrastination Leadership and become the leader others need you to be.
Copyright MMXVIII, MMXIII - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com
Change is hard. Changing the way we think, behave, work, and lead others is really hard. It takes dedicated, intentional focus. It takes dedicated, intentional restraint. It takes dedicated, intentional action. It takes dedication to change.
I've circled back and had interactions with two client groups recently who are experiencing the frustrations of change. Their organizations have been working to enhance their leadership teams, implement focused strategic plans, and implement a number of operational and personnel enhancements over the past 18 to 36 months. One company has made dramatic operational and personnel changes during this timeframe, the other less so.
However, each organization and leadership team is experiencing the frustrations of change.
- They've each experienced the plateaus of excitement. This is no longer new and different. This is now a pain!
- They've each experienced the frustration at the slowness of some of the changes. Why don't they change the way they think and behave? They still default to what's comfortable instead of what's right!
- They've each had eruptions and finger-pointing moments up and down the leadership chain. It's the senior team's fault! It's the middle managers' fault! It's the fault of those front-line supervisors!
- They've each stated the changes to strategies, operations, and leadership behaviors work has been helpful, but they do interfere with "real" work. We seem to meet more than before to talk things through. It takes time away from getting the work done. We're a small organization with managers who have to be doers at times too! If we're meeting and talking all the time, there's no one to do the work.
- They've each felt the frustrations of their teams "back-sliding" during the change process. We're back-sliding. We're spinning our wheels!
Each of their experiences is painful, stressful, and very real. Yet when asked a few questions to gauge how dedicated and intentional they've been to the change process, their responses are telling:
- Are you adjusting your leadership style to lead the teams as they currently need to be led? Not consistently. Well, we're trying to when we focus on it.
- Are you providing clear, consistent, continuous communication up, down, and across the organization? No. But, we've told the supervisors to communicate more. They're not doing it though or they're not communicating very clearly.
- Are you keeping the entire organization regularly apprised on how the organization is doing in moving forward on the strategic plan? No. We've had a lot of changes in the business over the past several months and we really haven't had time.
- Are you taking the time to train people, have "Necessary Conversations™" with employees immediately to provide feedback, and use those learning opportunities as on-the-spot training opportunities? Some. We're getting better at that.
- Are you modeling the types of behaviors you expect of everyone? Living the Values? For the most part. We still tend to be reactionary and over-committed than proactive, and strategic. We've cancelled a lot of meetings and other things lately because we're all so busy.
So what's changed? You wanted a more engaged, productive, trusting, independent workforce and leadership team. Your current style of leadership and the organizational structure you've stalled at is better than it was. However, it still doesn't support the type of workforce or leadership team you want.
If you want your organization and team to change, you need to change the way you lead. And, you need to keep changing.