Various versions of the mantra, “To be unclear is to be unkind” have been stated by leadership gurus like Brene Brown and Dave Ramsey, and I can identify with their perspective. As leaders, we can’t ignore issues, and it doesn’t serve anyone to dance around the elephant in the room in hopes that it will magically go away. Caring about your team members means having the courage to deliver difficult feedback. They say the best friends, true friends, are the ones that care enough to tell you something you don’t want to hear…but need to hear. We all know that we need to do the right thing in addressing employee issues, but it’s a tricky recipe of timing, empathy, attitude, and the list goes on. Here are three reminders I strive to incorporate as I prepare to address an employee issue.
1. Check your attitude and assumptions.
It’s so easy to go down the path of making assumptions and weaving a storyline in our heads about the motivations (or lack of motivation) of a team member. Harboring resentment is completely unproductive when it comes to handling an issue with an employee. The key is realizing the minute we start down this path. I personally find it helps to write those negative thoughts out…literally get all of my assumptions out of my head and down on paper. That way, I have the opportunity to move all my opinions to the side and focus on the facts and desired outcomes. I love how Henry Cloud positions how we should focus feedback: “hard on the issue, soft on the person”.
2. Assess your accountability.
There are two unique individuals in every relationship, whether it’s parent/child, husband/wife, or employer/employee. The individual I have complete control of is myself, so it’s important to do a self-awareness audit. Have clear expectations been set for the employee? Am I setting the example and living out the principles and expected behaviors? It’s important to ask questions and achieve clarity around an issue, as communication breakdowns are so common in this age of busyness. You may find that a “big issue” is really just a simple misinterpretation.
3. What’s the plan for Improvement?
If there’s an employee issue to be addressed, then there’s a negative impact happening that needs to be fixed. What is the desired outcome? This part of the discussion is so important to bring closure to the exchange. If we miss this step, or are too vague in the path to recovery, we’ve only made things worse. Remember, to be unclear is to be unkind. There is freedom in knowing the plan….knowing that doing X,Y, and Z will redeem the employee. It also provides communication and a specific way to measure progress in the future.
That wraps up the three reminders I strive to evaluate as I engage in addressing employee issues. It’s never an easy process, and I’ve learned some things the hard way. What is the most challenging part of addressing employee issues for you? Look for details on an upcoming AgCareers.com workshop around Crucial Conversations. Subscribe to our newsletter for dates and registration details.