Do you dread having difficult conversations with your team members about what ways they aren’t performing well in their roles?
I don’t mean something little. I mean that their performance has you considering whether to keep them on your team.
Awhile back, I was having an issue with one of my team members. We were close to deciding to terminate his employment, but we hadn’t directly discussed many of the critical issues involved in our dissatisfaction with his performance.
Here I was — a well-trained human resources professional — not fully disclosing my disappointments and unmet needs. I had mentioned some of them but left some unsaid.
This same person was also one of the more enjoyable people I had ever worked with and the idea that we could not work this out was disappointing (to say the least). Also nagging at me was my failure to have the conversation(s) that needed to be had. It’s not that I didn’t know better, but my hesitancy to ‘hurt’ this person’s feelings had seemed to take me hostage.
So I took the leap into a feedback conversation.
I started by saying, “First, let me tell you how much you really mean to me and how much I’d like to work together. Here’s what I really need from you and it’s not seemed to be possible. My contribution to this situation has been not telling you about the impact of your behavior on our team and on me personally. How do you see this on your end? What could we do differently?”
As we talked I could see he felt the warmth of my caring statements, which allowed him to be more vulnerable about what wasn’t working on his end. By the end of the conversation, we had jointly agreed upon trying some new ways of working. Since then, the problem seems to have resolved themselves and things are working out well. One more time, I found that by connecting from the heart, the conversation had gone well (no matter what the outcome).
Over time, I’ve found that people are reluctant to want to have what they perceive as “negative conversations.” When their team members do things that really frustrate them, they often walk away in fear of confronting it – even when they certainly “know” better.
The more heartfelt your feedback and the better the outcome, the more you likely get over your fear of having these conversations.
Here are three questions that help me speak from the heart:
1. What is my hope for this person and their future?
2. What role would I like to have in their life as a coach or mentor?
3. What relationship would I like to have with them in supporting their development?
The answers to these questions are my foundation for coaching conversations. While it’s easy enough to provide methods for having feedback conversations, only coming from the heart really makes a difference. Most of all, as the conversations become a positive event, the more likely most of us would be to have them.
So, what conversation do you need to have with someone?