Where I work we often say:
“The conversations that are killing you business are the ones you’re not having.”
I was working with a client once, facilitating a discussion about what to do with a long-term, loyal, but unproductive employee. After discussing all the internal and external workarounds put in place to support this employee, I asked “When was the last time you talked to them about this?”
Silly me. I should have asked that question first. The leadership team looked at each other a bit sheepishly and admitted that not once had they given them a clear set expectations, feedback, or an evaluation of any kind, formal or informal, in all the convulsions they had gone through to avoid firing this person.
My next question was: “What do you think would happen if you did?”
The best leaders I know have a knack of telling people things they might not want to hear in a way that preserves the relationship in a positive way, and sometimes even makes it stronger. Often the only people who will tell you when you have spinach in your teeth are your friends…
The good news is that’s there’s lots of help out there to learn this skill (it is a skill, and it can be learned.) If you need a place to start, try Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High. Then think about the conversation you’ve put off the longest, and go plan it.
*Imagine my delight when Trent asked me join a podcast on leadership. The question Trent was asking was “what mistakes should leaders avoid?” I jotted down five headlines inspired by my new-found fame. This is the third.