It started small. A member of your team made a mistake that was easily correctable. But you were so busy that it was easier just to let it slide. It really wasn’t that big of a deal anyway. It would fix itself.
This is how the spiral begins.
Now that same employee has made a mistake so large, it impacts the entire organization. Now instead of having a slightly uncomfortable but simple conversation about adhering to proper protocol, you’re dealing with a fireable offense and navigating a mess that could have been avoided if you’d taken the time for a crucial conversation and had a human resource solution in place.
Talking to employees about performance is happening less and less. I see this happening for several different reasons.
Often leaders think that employees can function in a vacuum without regular guidance and feedback. There is an expectation from the leader that the employee has been hired to do the job because of their previous experience or recent training so they should be able to perform and meet expectations on their own.
Leaders also find crucial conversations challenging because they know they didn’t do what they needed to help the employee be successful – whether that’s from not setting clear expectations from the start or from the leader not modeling the appropriate behavior themselves.
If you find yourself avoiding conversations about performance for any reason, there is a way to overcome any barrier and start having regular effective crucial conversations with a focus on leadership development.
Elements of an Effective Crucial Conversation
There are going to be times you need to have tough conversations about performance. Understanding the elements that comprise an effective crucial conversation will make having them much easier.
Prepare for the meeting
We all do it. When something makes us uncomfortable, we put off preparing for it or wait until the absolute last minute. I see this happen so often with crucial conversations, but there’s an easy fix! Instead of procrastinating, prepare and put leadership development into action. Plan out what you’d like to say. Consider questions to ask the employee to engage them in the dialogue. Imagine the optimal end result. When you have a well thought out plan, you’ll feel more confident, and the pending conversation becomes just another part of your day instead of something you dread.
Start with the facts
Many leaders find confronting the actual issue uncomfortable, so they rush and go straight to the decision they’ve already made. This approach doesn’t encourage dialogue or build a culture of trust. Instead, state the facts you know and provide space for the employee to respond.
After you’ve shared the facts that you know, let the employee share. Good leadership development and action is a dialogue. You must genuinely listen and want to hear the employee’s perspective. Employees want to be heard. What they say may not change the end result. But you’ve still helped them feel valued by providing space for the employee to use their voice.
Make a decision based on the facts
This is where you need to focus on only the facts. Subjective information that is weighed down by emotion makes it difficult to decide what is the best course of action to take. When you focus on only the facts minus the emotion, the best way to resolve the situation will become clear.
Crucial discussions are not something you can skip as a leader. You have to have these conversations with your people. The more regular the better. Frequent conversations about performance increases engagement and helps everyone stay on the same page. You can’t be afraid or use the “too busy” excuse to focus on leadership development. Your team will thank you for it with increased performance and collaboration.