In the world of awkwardness, difficult situations and don’t-want-to-do-it, almost nothing ranks higher than having to tackle a tough conversation with a team member. So how do you handle these tough situations, when your natural instinct is to totally avoid them? Here are a few “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to dealing with conflict.
Don’t put it off. Revenge may be a dish that is best served cold — at least according to Don Corleone — but if you’re having an issue with a team member it needs to be handled as soon as possible. Procrastination not only hurts you and the person involved, but your whole staff as they watch sanctioned incompetence or continual bad behavior without repercussions. Like Dave Ramsey says, “If you allow people to misbehave, underachieve, have a bad attitude, gossip and generally avoid excellence, please don’t expect to attract and keep great talent. Please don’t expect to have an incredible culture.”
Get it on your calendar. Schedule an appointment for a meeting with the person who is having an issue, and block out enough time to get the problem solved. It’s not fair to either of you for there to be no resolution or understanding in the end.
Don’t be cruel. Nothing is ever accomplished by bullying or being mean. Remember, in this situation you have power and control. They have neither. The idea of the meeting is to course-correct and teach — not to embarrass and demoralize.
The reprimand should:
- Be kept short. Get to the facts.
- Be uncomfortable for everyone. Be blunt for the sake of clarity.
- Attack the problem. At Dave’s company, leaders use the “Reprimand Sandwich” recommended by Ken Blanchard in The One Minute Manager. Start with praise, then talk about the problem and finally top it off with more praise.
- Be private. The goal is not to embarrass anyone. Embarrassing a team member is a quick way to lose that person’s loyalty forever.
- Be gentle. Kind and clear are the key words here, because you don’t want to lose a teachable moment.
- Don’t lose focus. For most of us, the first response to an uncomfortable conversation is to change the subject. As a leader, this is the last thing you want to do. Concentrate on the problem at hand, and keep things on course.
- Be prepared. The easiest way to stay on track is to prepare before the meeting. Write down the preferred outcome, and the talking points you need to cover with the team member, to accomplish this goal. Keep the list close at hand, and reference it to remind yourself of what you need to cover should you start to drift.
Being a leader is never easy, especially when it comes to hard conversations. There will be times, however, when you have to deal with these kinds of situations in order to unify your team and move the company forward!