In the last few years’ I have spent considerate time with exasperated Managers’ and subsequently reporting employees where performance gaps exist. In many cases, the Managers’ in question feel that they have clearly communicated the performance issues but they are just aren’t being heard by the employee.

Ensure clarity when discussing performance issues.

“So you are saying even being direct was not getting through to this sales person. I think asking them what they think, and if they heard what the problem is can make sure the other person heard this issue”

In this post, the manager assumed they were being direct with subtlety. Their interpretation of subtlety was to deliver a clear message with an increased emphasis on sparing the salesperson’s feelings. Sometimes this approach backfires for a number of reasons:

  1. The boss becomes more concerned with the reaction of the employee and dilutes the message.
  2. The employee walks away believing the issue is minor when it is a major one.
  3. The boss assumes their subordinate wants to be talked to the way he or she wants to hear things – when it may be very different.

It is my guess that the manager may have tried to follow up with questions this reader is posing, though the conversation may have been cut short. It is more likely, other factors were working against them.

These types of conversations are usually not the ones that bosses want to have with their employees and vice versa. If we play out the scenario differently, it is probable the employee acted like they understood. After all, he or she wants to get out of the hot seat as soon as they can! Alternatively, the boss wants to dispose of this difficult conversation quickly.

The solution is – ensure that conversations complete the full feedback loop approach. If you follow these steps, you will increase your success with difficult conversations:

Step 1: Define the problem clearly with examples.

Step 2: Identify how the problem affects results or relationships.

Step 3: If you have a preferred solution, share it; otherwise brainstorm and explore options together.

Step 4: Agree on a solution. The solution will include specific behaviour changes, reinforcements and timing. The solution should focus on delivering the desired outcome(s).

Step 5: Discuss how this new behaviour or result will look when you see it (the successful outcome). Be detailed in the description – create a picture where the employee visually sees themselves doing it.

Step 6: Ask the other person to restate their understanding of each step. Ask clear open questions avoiding closed-end questions. Let them tell you what they think in their own words.

Step 7: Set a meeting time to review progress and make adjustments.

To help facilitate the discussion further- consider sharing this model with the employee before you start the conversation. They will know what to expect as the discussion progresses and you will find less resistance to correcting undesirable behaviours and outcomes.

Need assistance to hold that effective dialogue?

On the Table Consulting offers mediation to facilitate conversations involving personal and workplace conflicts.

On the Table Consulting also creates and implements a wide variety of communication and management consulting services, including organisational process development, executive and leadership development, and conflict resolution workshops.

On the Table Consulting assists people and teams to have conversations. Conversations to resolve conflict impartially, objectively and in a timely manner.

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