We train everyone in our lives how to deal with us, how to treat us, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable by our response (or lack of!).
Working with companies and teams, I see this over and over again. The business owner will let an issue slide until they are frustrated and blow up or fire the team member.
Of course this is true not just for the business owner, but also for the managers and team members themselves, dealing with each other or (even worse) your customers.
And often the real issue is that the person who is upset has ignored or avoided what’s not working until they reached the boiling point.
On the other hand, the person on the other side of the equation doesn’t even know there is an issue until the blow up!
Have you ever had this response: “But I’ve been doing it this way all year. Why is it an issue now?”
We confuse being nice with avoidance.
How many times have you stepped over something that’s not working or is frustrating you because it was uncomfortable to deal with? Or because the other person might get upset?
We think we are being nice by not upsetting the other person, when what we are really doing is avoiding a possible confrontation.
Here is where we run into the issue – if you don’t correct what’s not working, you are training people that what they are doing is acceptable.
“Life is hard for those who take the easy road, and easy for those who take the hard road”
So what is the essential ingredient to a super productive team? Get comfortable being straight.
The key to becoming comfortable while being straight forward with what’s not working is to reduce the risk of confrontation (for both sides of the conversation!).
How do we do that? My approach is what I call the Clear Communication Formula™:
1) Start with acknowledging what is working in the situation (people have a lot more room to hear what isn’t working if you start by saying what they are doing well). Be sincere and specific.
2) Then state what isn’t working without blame. Again be specific.
3) And finally set clear expectations. What do you want to see happening?
Let’s look at an example. You have a receptionist answering your phone but you are frustrated. Too many calls are going through to voicemail because she spends a long time on individual calls.
You can see how this could build and build until you blow one day and fire the person.
In this story let’s say the receptionist’s name is Sue.
Applying the three step Clear Communication Formula, instead of getting upset I would say “Sue, you are great with customers on the phone. You bond with them and they often comment on how well they feel taken care of. The challenge is that each call takes so long that too many incoming calls are going through to voicemail.”
“Which means that even though you are excellent when you are speaking to people, too many people are missing out and not getting the same experience or even worse, the experience is inconsistent – sometimes they can reach you and sometimes they can’t get through.”
Sue’s response is that she has a hard time getting off the phone and customers tell her all about their lives, children, grandchildren, challenges, and more. She doesn’t want to cut them off.
“What I’d like to do is work with you so that you are comfortable controlling the conversation. You can still have the bonding conversations that you are so good at, without the call running on and interfering with the experience of other people calling in.”
“My expectation is that no more than 10 calls a day go into voicemail.”
If you are not addressing an issue with a team member, you are actually training them that what they are doing is acceptable, and you are missing an opportunity to train and develop them.
Practice this formula and you will immediately have more freedom to be clear, straight and direct about what’s working and what’s not working.
Where type of issues are the most challenging to discuss with your team?
Post your comments below…