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Difficult conversations misc

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Difficult conversations misc

  1. 1. 3 Keys to Making Difficult Discussions EasierIt is clear that the key reason people avoid giving feedback is not because they dont understandthe problem but rather because they dont know how to craft a message that is sayable andhearable.Put the focus on the positive, desired performance rather than highlighting the current negativeperformance. The result is a message that you can deliver without having a bottle of Alka-Seltzerat your side and your staff can hear without going off the rails.Key #1: Identify the Performance IssueIdentify the negative behavior that is holding the individual back not a problem for most people.Then describe it in the opposite, positive terms.For example, if the employee lacks finesse when dealing with clients and behaves like a bull in achina shop the manager would ask for the employee to develop a more polished and professionalstyle.When an employee makes frequent mistakes the manager would talk in terms of developingmore accuracy.For the employee who chronically complains that everything is a problem, but never offers anysolutions, the manager might ask the employee to develop a problem solving approach.Key #2: Be Specific about the Desired ChangeIt is important to get specific about what you mean by a more polished and professionalapproach, more accuracy or a problem solving approach. For example, What I mean by developa problem solving approach is that when you first notice a problem that is preventing you fromgetting your job done to first think through a solution and then approach me if its something youneed my help with.Key #3: Detail the Benefits of Making the ChangeLastly, it is useful to explain to the employee the benefit of developing the performance area.Ask yourself Why do I want the employee to make this change?In the case of the chronic complainer who never offers solutions their behavior most likelycreates negativity, wastes time and garners complaints from co-workers who are sick and tired oflistening to this person drone on about whats wrong.So, the heres why Im asking you to focus on this part of the message would sound somethinglike this, The reason I want you to focus on solving problems is that people will notice andappreciate a how do I make things better around here approach, it will make more constructiveuse of the time we have and it will bring more positive energy into the team.
  2. 2. Notice how the message is still honest yet it talks in terms of what WILL happen when theemployee develops a problem solving approach.These keys are the core of the Performance Continuum Feedback Method, a step-by-stepmethodology designed to make anyone comfortable delivering even the most difficult feedback.ConclusionTalking in terms of the desired performance versus the current undesired performance serves twopurposes: 1. We are more likely to initiate the discussion because the wording makes it more comfortable to deliver the feedback. 2. The employee learns what is expected (as opposed to focusing on whats wrong) with their dignity intactBypassing negative performance descriptions and the resulting negative employee reactionallows the employee to respond more positively; ultimately facilitating the move towards thesolution phase of the discussion the ultimate goal of feedback.A simple rule of thumb is to provide the employee with the opportunity to receive the feedbackand make progress on the issue. Only when it is clear that the employee is unwilling or unable tomake progress should more extreme measures be used -- such as disciplinary action ordocumented performance plans.Read the blog article on how to translate behavior based issues into SMART goalsMost managers would rather immerse their hand in boiling water than give an employeefeedback about poor performance. Yet most managers will comfortably discuss those issueswith a sympathetic ear, either an HR contact, a peer manager or even someone at home.What is clearly uncomfortable for the manager is having a direct conversation with theemployee who has the performance issue: Often managers ultimately become so frustrated with the employees performance they seek HR support to begin the process of terminating the employee. Upon questioning the manager and reviewing the personnel file, HR will often find that the employee in question was never provided any information regarding the seriousness of their performance deficiencies. The manager may admit they have not raised the issue with the employee or at best hinted at the issue in the past. In other words, the employee has no idea they are in danger of losing their job.
  3. 3. The traditional method in which managers provide performance feedback to employees isoften the ultimate cause for why feedback is not always provided.Most managers believe they need to create a bullet-proof case revolving around a list of theemployees shortcomings. This approach usually results in a defensive reaction from theemployee which makes it difficult to gain agreement on what needs to change. Once a managerhas been through this process once or twice it becomes easier just to avoid addressing employeeperformance issues altogether. Lets just say there is no real mystery for why managers tend tosteer clear of giving feedback about poor performance!Feedback vs. Discpline The good news is that managers are able to recognize anddescribe performance problems, but that usually means using language that feels likediscipline. Sometimes we refer to this as constructive criticism. However this approach still feelslike criticism and discipline.Feedback: a better, more productive approachUse positive words that describe the desired performance rather than off-putting words thatdescribe the current underperformance.Some Examples 1. If the employee lacks finesse when dealing with fellow employees and behaves like a bull in a china shop the manager would ask for the employee to develop a more polished and professional style. 2. When an employee makes frequent mistakes the manager would talk in terms of developing more accuracy. For the employee who chronically complains that everything is a problem the manager might ask the employee to develop a problem solving approach.Be SpecificAs these behavioral descriptions are broad it is important to further explain what the manager islooking for by providing specific positive examples of what they mean by a more polished andprofessional approach, more accuracy or a problem solving approach. Again, these examplesshould demonstrate positive behavior examples.
  4. 4. Explain the ImportanceLastly, it is useful to explain to the employee the benefit of developing the performance area.The manager must simply ask themselves, Why do I want the employee to make this change? Inthe case of the employee who makes frequent mistakes the manager may reason that in thefinance environment accuracy is essential, therefore the month end reports must representcomplete and correct data.In SummaryThis approach makes it easier for managers to address performance issues by talking in terms ofthe desired performance versus the undesired performance. It also specifically describes to theemployee what the manager expects in terms of performance. Because it by-passes the negativedescriptions and resulting negative reaction the employee is more likely to respond positively tothe feedback. A simple rule of thumb is to provide the employee with the opportunity to receivethe feedback and make progress on the issue. Only when it is clear that the employee is unwillingor unable to make progress should more extreme measures be used such as disciplinary actions or documented performance plans. Learn how to: Apply a helpful "Difficult Performance Conversations Paradigm" Identify and deal with: -> why you may be in conflict with the staff member -> how this can affect the conversation, and what follows -> the staff members motivators, preferred communication style Apply a straightforward model for managing the conversation (and beyond) Manage your own communication style preferences during the conversation (and beyond) Anticipate and plan around what could go wrong in the conversation (and beyond) Identify trigger-words and phrases to be avoided Give meaningful -> positive feedback -> developmental feedback Develop and deliver on an action plan Complete the loop once the issue has been dealt with Apply this learning to real-life conversationsMost of us would rather have a root canal (without the Novocain) than give an employeefeedback about poor performance, particularly when it relates to a behavior based issue. Yet, wewill eagerly discuss or more accurately complain about these issues to colleagues, friends orfamily. So what stops us from providing feedback to the employee?Clearly, identifying the performance issue isn‟t the roadblock. Ask any group of co-workers ormanagers what the problem is with an underperforming employee and they usually can name itwithout hesitation:
  5. 5. “You, mean Mr. Know-It-All? If he would ask for help instead of pretending he knows how to do everything maybe he would meet his deadlines.” “She stresses about everything. I just want to slip a valium in her diet coke.” “He‟s mastered the art of looking busy.” “She‟s an excuse expert.” “Oh, he will promise you anything, just don‟t hold your breath waiting.”So, why do we all steer clear of challenging performance conversations?Why People Avoid Giving Difficult FeedbackOver the years we have heard many reasons for why people avoid or delay providing feedback.Here are some of the more common reasons: I don‟t know what to say The employee is due to retire in two years anyway… I‟m worried about the employee‟s reaction What if I make things worse? This person has been here a long time and who am I to bring up the performance issue? What about legal ramifications? It will demotivate the employee I hate conflict Maybe the problem will fix itself I don‟t think the employee is capable of changing I don‟t know what the solution to this performance issue is.Even the most seasoned managers can come up with a million excuses for avoiding or putting offa difficult performance conversation. We believe the problem lies more with the method wetraditionally use to provide feedback rather than with some shortcoming of the individualresponsible for orchestrating the performance conversation.The Traditional Method of Performance Feedback and Why it Doesn’t WorkThe traditional method in which managers provide performance information to employees,usually referred to as constructive criticism, is often the very reason we avoid or delay givingfeedback in the first place.Most of us believe we need to create a bullet-proof case revolving around a list of theemployee‟s shortcomings. Is it any wonder that most feedback recipients get defensive andfeedback providers find difficultly in achieving anything remotely resembling a productiveoutcome, never mind gaining agreement on what needs to change? Once you have been throughthis process once or twice it becomes easier just to avoid addressing performance issuesaltogether. Let‟s just say there is no real mystery for why managers tend to steer clear of givingfeedback about poor performance!3 Keys to Reducing Defensive Reactions to Feedback
  6. 6. It is clear that the key reason managers avoid giving feedback is not because they don‟tunderstand the problem but rather because they don‟t know how to craft a message that is“sayable” and “hearable.” The Performance Continuum Feedback® Method (PCFM) is a straightforward approach to do just that.The PCFM helps you put the focus on the positive, desired performance rather than highlightingthe current negative performance. The result is a message that managers can deliver comfortablyand with confidence in the fact that the employee is more likely to respond positively.Key #1: Identify the Performance IssueIdentify the negative behavior that is holding the individual back – not a problem for mostpeople. Then describe it in the opposite, positive terms. For example, if the employee lacksfinesse when dealing with clients and behaves like a “bull in a china shop” the manager wouldask for the employee to develop a more polished and professional style. For an employee thatmakes frequent mistakes, the manager would talk in terms of developing more accuracy. For theemployee who chronically complains that everything is a problem but never offers any solutions,the manager might ask the employee to develop a problem solving approach.Key #2: Be Specific about the Desired ChangeIt is important to get specific about what you mean by a “more polished and professionalapproach”, “more accuracy” or a “problem solving approach”. For example, “What I mean by„develop a problem solving approach‟ is that when you first notice a problem that is preventingyou from getting your job done I want you to first think through a solution and then approach meif it‟s something you need my help with”.Key #3: Detail the Benefits of Making the ChangeLastly, it is useful to explain to the employee the benefit of developing the performance area.First, ask yourself “What problems does this performance cause”?In the case of the chronic complainer who never offers solutions, their behavior most likelycreates negativity, wastes time and garners complaints from co-workers who are sick and tired oflistening to this person drone on about what‟s wrong. So, the “here‟s why I‟m asking you tofocus on this” part of the message would sound something like this.“The reason I want you to focus on solving problems is that people will notice and appreciateyour „how do I make things better around here‟ approach.This will make more constructive use of the time we have and it will bring more positive energyinto the team”. Notice how the message is still honest yet talks in terms of what WILL happenwhen the employee develops a problem solving approach. These keys are the core of thePerformance Continuum Feedback® Method, a step-by-step methodology designed to makeanyone comfortable delivering even the most difficult feedback.
  7. 7. ConclusionTalking in terms of the desired performance versus the current undesired performance serves twopurposes:Bypassing negative performance descriptions and the resulting negative employee reactionallows the employee to respond more positively; ultimately facilitating the move towards thesolution phase of the discussion – the ultimate goal of feedback.A simple rule of thumb is to provide the employee with at least two opportunities to receive thefeedback and make progress on the issue. Only when it becomes clear that the employee isunwilling or unable to make progress should more extreme measures be used - such asdisciplinary action or documented performance plans.We all know who the offenders in our organizations are. They are the employees andmanagers who make it difficult for others to get their job done. It is easy to identify the badactors in our organizations who exhibit bad behaviors, but most people who could intervene failto do so because they are uncertain about how to deal with the problem. Thats because mostleaders charged with addressing behavior-based issues have little or no experience ortraining in dealing with this challenge. Consequently, we often see patterns of disruptivebehavior emerge when they could have been prevented through the right kind of earlyintervention.Bite MeWe recently had a conversation with a nurse and asked her to share a story of unprofessionalbehavior she observed. Her story: "We had this guy who was promoted to clinical coordinatorfor the surgical facility; a job that oversees the scheduling of patients and staff for patientsurgery. As nurses we knew which anesthesiologists, physicians and nurse teams worked besttogether and we would request changes to the schedule to insure a high quality patient careexperience. The clinical coordinator would respond with, "Bite me". He was a complete jerkand to add insult to injury his behavior was well known but it took two long years before he wasdemoted from the position and replaced by someone who was both competent and professional".Technically Competent but Sucking the Life Out of Everyone ElseIt can be a challenge when our most technically competent employees (even those of senior rank)exhibit behaviors that are disruptive. These are the employees who have all of the skills andtalent you want, but whose attitudes and issues drain your energy, contribute to creating a toxicenvironment and suck the life out of your high and mid-level performers. Our work days arefilled with enough stress, uncertainty and tension. Make the work environment as collaborative,supportive, collegial and pleasant as possible by addressing and stopping bad behavior in itstracks.

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