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Hi, my name is Scott and I work in HR

If I used this line at a dinner party, networking event or at any other social event, the eye rolling would start and I am almost certain that I would be met with a series of passive, “oh, hi’s.” Bottom line, no one would be all that interested in meeting and speaking with me if that was how I approached them. Funny thing, in our everyday jobs in HR, we as HR Pros do this all the time. Perhaps not quite as blatant and awkward as this, but we still use this approach when trying to work with our internal clients. Quite often we are the awkward kid at school who is trying to integrate into social circles.   Instead of identifying ways we can add value to the business, we like to remind our clients what our function is – like it is some sort of security blanket for us. We do this as if HR is some sort of oversight function through which operations must obtain approval before making business decisions…as if. Which begs the question, “Why do we do this?”

Hello

I got inspired to write more about this topic based on the thought provoking blog post that my colleague, Sabrina Baker, wrote last week related to her speaking engagement at the California HR conference. Sabrina wrote about Moving from HR Leader to Business Leader.” You can read her post here and as is her custom, she also supplied her slide deck here. You should check them out and give her a follow. The point(s) of hers that really stuck out to me though were the following where she wrote:

“It isn’t enough these days to be an HR leader, we need to be business leaders. We need to understand the business as well as every other leader. We need to know finance, marketing and sales as well as the individuals running those teams. We need to be able to speak and understand the lingo. We need to know how decisions impact the business and how to create people strategies that help achieve the business strategies.

And we need to do it all without asking for permission.”

As HR Pros, we should all read that last line again. “…we need to do it all without asking for permission.” So here is the thought that I want to piggyback on to Sabrina’s writing. Let’s stop introducing ourselves as the girl or guy who works in HR. No one cares. No one is impressed by that statement. Why don’t we start introducing ourselves as a problem solver? We need to stop thinking of ourselves as an internal department and think of ourselves as internal consultants. If we were consultants, we would HAVE to add value and solve problems; otherwise, we wouldn’t be in business. As a department, we tend to get a bit lazy and assume that because we are a department, people HAVE to use us…wrong!

So, as consultants and problem solvers, let’s start introducing ourselves as such. To Sabrina’s point, we have to stop asking for permission to do this and just go ahead and DO IT. How do you think your role will be received at work the next time you try one of these lines: (exaggeration and simplicity done for dramatic impact purposes)

“Hi, my name is Jane/John and I can help solve your resource issues by_____”

“I would like to propose a solution to your succession challenge”

“I have an idea on how to reduce your labour costs by introducing a contingent workforce plan”

“I have identified a low cost solution on how we can easily implement a mentoring program in your department to help with your skills shortage.”

Any one of these is a great opening line at a work party, I mean, as a work conversation. Your internal clients will be much more receptive if they see you as a solutions provider and not some bureaucratic department. Here is the beauty of all this, you don’t need to ask for permission to do this! (Thanks Sabrina!) Be a leader, go forward and just do it! You won’t get in trouble. Really…you won’t. It’s ok. Take the first step. Try introducing yourself differently. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Maialisa/Pixabay.com

Employees only want one thing

There are many things that are important to employees. Depending on who you are, what your current personal, social-economic, familial and educational situation is like, you will have different things that are important to you when it comes to choosing and staying with a company. Some people need to make as much money as they can and are willing to put up with doing a job that is not what they want to be doing, or they will commute longer to make more money, etc.

Conversely, if work/life integration is important, some people will take less money to have a shorter commute, or fewer benefits or less training and development dollars to have a better balance. At the end of the day, the mix you strike as an employer is all about how well you market, recruit and understand your candidates. You need to be able to identify what is important to them, what you have to offer and then see if there is match by selling your employment brand features that you know will appeal to them.

respect saying

However, this post is not about recruiting. It is more about retention. You see, you can do a fantastic job of selling your company and all the great things you offer – whether it is top pay, great location, sexy work environment, professional development dollars, etc.; however, if your company is missing one key ingredient, the entire brand becomes organizationally bankrupt. You see, nothing will ever work out long term for you and your staff if there is no RESPECT.

Respect, and to an equal extent trust, are/is the most important ingredient(s) in your employee value proposition (EVP). No amount of smoke or mirrors, I mean, great compensation and benefits, will overcome a workplace that is void of respect. As well, any efforts made by a company to improve retention, engagement (although I hate that one), and the overall work environment will always be wiped out if your employees feel they aren’t being respected and/or they don’t trust you.

Now, I am not talking about a company that has one or two managers that don’t respect employees. Good organizations that vet their manager/leader types well, have good HR peeps and have support systems established that give employees a method and a voice to address concerns will have the ability to stamp out these types of singular issues appropriately.

The real problem is when your organization has a lack of respect at its core. This often permeates subtly throughout the organization and shows up in different ways, such that it affects managers and employees at all levels. Organizational disrespect is often like mold and rot forming in your house. It starts out slowly and subtly and before you realize it exists, you have a major problem. Quite often a lack of respect in organizations is not what you would typically think of. Most people think of disrespect as managers yelling, embarrassing or berating employees. They also think of disrespect often when it comes to a (bad) manager’s tone, delivery, cadence, etc. I think in organizations that have major respect issues it is much more than this.

If you want to make sure you are treating your employees with respect, you need to make sure as an organization you aren’t doing any of the following on a regular basis:

  • Asking for opinions and then ignoring them. In other words, doing employee surveys and then not responding or doing anything to improve specific areas. Nothing shows a blatant lack of respect (time and opinion) more than this.
  • Not communicating to staff. Essentially this falls into the “need to know bucket.” This typically manifests itself in an organizational culture in several ways:
    • employees are not informed about important matters that affect them (ever).
    • employees hear about changes after the fact, or from members outside their organization.
    • the rumour mill is more accurate and detailed then what is cascaded to staff.
    • the organization waits for “perfect” information before communicating anything, because, you know, “we can’t tell them a bit about something and then it turns out not to be true or happen.”
    • all employees hear about changes at the same time – there is no delineation based on role, importance of message, support required, etc.
  • Poor or no change management practices. Essentially organizations that don’t believe or follow any type of basic change management practices are being disrespectful to its employees. You can’t, as an organization, expect to implement significant organizational changes without a proper change/communication plan. This would include things like organizational/structural changes, geographic changes, major acquisitions, changes to benefits plans and changes to performance management practices to name a few.

By just “informing” your staff of something you are not only poorly communicating and not helping them manage change, you are also showing a general disrespect to your employees. The message you send is that whatever the change or information is that you have, it is simply not important enough to you (and your employees aren’t important enough) to be done properly through a communication plan and change management approach. It is simply something that needs to get checked off on the proverbial “to do list.”

Believe me when I tell you that in almost all organizations you have smart people that work for you. They “get” this stuff and understand the subtle message here. They know when they have been shown a lack of respect and they know when the message is “you aren’t important enough.” They may not voice their displeasure, but you will feel it through a lack of productivity, increased absenteeism and ultimately attrition. Oh, and that employment brand you have been working on marketing to new candidates to help improve your recruiting efforts…good luck with that.

Ironically, out of all the things companies can do to improve their brand, as well as their recruiting and retention efforts, communication and change management, for the purposes of showing respect to your employees, will be the CHEAPEST “initiative” or “program” you will ever launch. I just don’t understand why some companies don’t get that. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Kathy Kimpel/Flickr.com

You look like a total A#% !!

Sometimes we just have to call it as we see it. Yes, that is the responsibility of a good manager. A huge part of leadership and coaching is providing candid feedback to our employees and by candid, I mean hard, border line harsh, feedback.  You see, sometimes people just don’t get the message and you have you have to hit them right in the face with the cold hard truth (metaphorically speaking of course).

DonkeyI coach my operations partners on having these difficult conversations whereby I get them to focus on the impact of the employee’s (poor) behaviour instead of the behaviour itself. Meaning, if someone is constantly late for work, instead of accusing or identifying tardiness as the issue, focus on the impact their behaviour has on others: i.e. it creates more work, meetings need to be rescheduled or started over due to the disruption, etc. Whatever the impact is to you and your team, you need to have the employee understand that. In an overly simplistic way, it is, “When you do THAT, THIS is the result.”

Often the issues we deal with are far more impactful than tardiness or dress code violations (shudder). This is especially true when the issue majorly impacts multiple co-workers and/or clients directly. I have had managers use the approach that I outlined above and despite their best efforts, the message just doesn’t sink in with the employee. Sometimes the employee simply doesn’t care, perhaps the manager is too nice in their delivery or the employee could be a total sociopath or narcissist and is oblivious to their impact on others. That is when it is time to pull out the big guns.

For example, let’s say we have an employee named “Brad.” Brad has been coached many times by his manager on his abrupt and abrasive communication style with his peers, manager and with customers. Here is the thing, Brad is a bright guy. He is pretty switched on and has a lot of good ideas on how to solve problems. However, Brad would prefer to point out other people’s flaws in their ideas and thinking as opposed to actually providing solutions. Brad also likes to get on his proverbial soapbox and preach to others about all the things they have done wrong and how he can’t support this or that. Brad also likes to lecture in emails and express his displeasure with organizational decisions this way. In short, Brad has become a major pain in the ass to deal with.

Brad’s manager has tried coaching him nicely but Brad doesn’t get it. So Brad’s manager needs to get a bit medieval with him. Oh and by the way, to further compound the issue, Brad himself is a manager so we now have a major problem to deal with. So here is how the conversation goes:

  • Brad’s Manager: “Brad, I wanted to speak to you about something very important and critical to you success. As you may remember, we have had many conversations about your tone, communication style and professionalism with your emails and verbal communication.”
  • Brad: “uh, ok, sure, I guess.”
  • Brad’s Manager: “Brad, let me be very clear as we move forward. When you disregard my coaching and feedback, as well as my advice and examples on how to properly and effectively communicate, it makes me feel as though you do not want to be part of this team. I need players on this team that want to win with me. In order to do so, I need you to accept my coaching and feedback. I don’t mind if you have a concern about something or feel the need to express a contrary opinion; however, you do that behind closed doors with me – not in emails, not verbally in front of staff, your peers or customers.”
  • Brad: “well, that isn’t really want I am trying to do. It is just that others aren’t listening to me and I am getting frustrated because they just don’t get it.”
  • Brad’s Manager: “Brad, I understand that that is how you feel; however, the bottom line is that when you act this way, you come across like a total ass. Your behaviour is comparable to that of a spoiled child. When you don’t get your way, you take your toys and go home. Your peers and staff have lost respect for you and you need to earn that back. The 1st step in doing so is to stop acting like an ass and accept my feedback. Can you commit to doing that?”
  • Brad: “Uh, um, er, well, gee, uh, I didn’t mean to, well, that is pretty harsh, I didn’t want to, uh, um, er…..yes.”
  • Brad’s Manager: “Thanks Brad, I am looking forward to seeing an immediate improvement.”

Perhaps not all conversations go quite that way, but for the most part, that is an effective way to have that conversation. The manager did several impactful things there:

  1. They identified the problem and referred to previous conversations about the issue (in other words, not the first time the employee has been spoken to)
  2. They referred to specific examples and not nebulous comments
  3. They identified the impact to the company, Brad, his team, customers and staff
  4. The (limited) use of swearing was impactful. It wasn’t something normally done but it made a powerful point
  5. The manager was clear about what would happen if the behaviour didn’t change
  6. The manager asked for a firm commit for immediate and sustained change

It isn’t an overly difficult or prescriptive formula; however, it works. Call out the behaviour; don’t be afraid to tell the employee their behaviour is making them look like an ass. Believe me, they will hear you. You need to help them understand that they are damaging their own personal brand, reputation and are losing respect (from others) by doing what they are doing. It is a path of self-destruction they are going down – you need to help them see that and that as their manager, it is your responsibility to identify and communicate this problem to them. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesyof Evgeni Dinev/FreedDigitalPhotos.net

“I’m Bringing Respect Back”

If you didn’t pick up on it initially, sing that title to the tune of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back.” Now it is pretty cool isn’t it? Seriously though, when did a lack of respect for people leave our workplaces? Jay Kuhns wrote a great post on Monday that really struck a chord with me. Here is the link to it, but his point was simple. That is, he was trying to show how disconnected many of us are from our hiring and onboarding processes vs. reality. He further went on to make the point about how when we ask candidates for their feedback on how their hiring and onboarding went, we don’t really seem to listen to them.

Respect Sign PostTo me, and I think Jay was trying to make this point, was that it comes down to a matter of respect. Think of the front end (recruiting) side of things first and all the touch points we have with candidates. How many of us and/or our organizations are guilty, somewhere along the line, of doing at least one of these things to candidates:

  1. Interviewing a candidate and then never following up with them again (either way)
  2. Interviewing a candidate but sending them an email “regrets” note
  3. Experiencing delays in coordinating next step interviews but not keeping the candidate informed of the reason for the delays
  4. Not clearly spelling out the required pre-hire steps with the candidate and/or introducing surprise new steps without an explanation as to why. (i.e. 3rd, 4th, 5th interviews)
  5. Telling a candidate that you will follow up with them (perhaps with a decision) by a specific date and then you don’t follow up with them (for whatever reason).
  6. Offering a candidate a job 4 weeks after they last heard from you (similar to #3) and expecting them to still be available
  7. Inflexibility and refusing to accommodate/respect a candidate’s time when interviewing with you. i.e. “I have one time slot left for you to meet with the manager.”

The bottom line is that none of these things show respect towards a candidate and for them as a person. It gives the impression that you are doing them a favour by interviewing them and/or even considering them for your company. Similarly, I have seen equally deplorable behaviours on the onboarding side of things that show a similar lack of respect:

  1. Manager(s) not prepared for a new hires arrival
  2. Organizations inundating new hires with forms, policies and manuals to read on their first few days instead of taking the time to actually develop an onboarding plan that would integrate a new hire into the current team and culture. Nothing says “I don’t have time to deal with you” like throwing a manual at someone!
  3. Lack of computer and phone access on the 1st day
  4. The new hire is left to have lunch on their own on their first day.
  5. The manager checks in with their new employee only at the beginning of the day, most days, when they first start. Or better yet, the manager disappears for the day and the new hire is left trying to figure out where they went, if they should leave for the day, etc.

Unfortunately, this list could go on for a while. The bottom line is that we as HR Pros and all of us as leaders have to get better at this. We need to stop anything that we are doing on these lists. Let’s all vow to bring respect back to our workplaces. That starts with showing more respect for candidates and new hires. If we do that, we can start to bring respect back to all of our workplaces because we have made this part of our cultures and our brands. Now sing it with me, “I’m bringing respect back……” Come on, you know you want to. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Leadership Credibility in 5 Easy Ways

Being a successful leader requires someone to possess and balance a whole plethora of traits and characteristics. I have blogged many times about leadership and how to be successful, as have many other people who are way smarter and more qualified to do so than me! However, in reflecting on my experience as a leader, as well as thinking about leaders I have worked with and for, there is one very important characteristic that I feel all leaders need to possess in order to be successful, and that is credibility.

Successful leaders are almost always seen as having a high degree of credibility by their employees. For purposes of this article, I am not thinking of, or referring to, the credibility that is gained from technical or functional knowledge – i.e. being a subject matter expert. I am referring to the soft skill credibility successful leaders possess based on the Number 5perception their employees have of them. This is the credibility, which in the eyes of their employees, improves their trust in them, aids in communication and makes them want to fully engage in the work they do for their leader. This is the credibility that ultimately leads to you, as a leader, and your employees both being successful in your roles.
So, how exactly does one gain this credibility that is so important for leadership success? I believe that fundamentally it comes down to five (mostly easy) ways that when utilized effectively, allow managers to gain credibility and thus transform themselves into successful leaders:

1. Explain Why – when it comes to the broader organizational or departmental stuff, to gain credibility as a leader, you sometimes need to stop and provide the “why” to your staff. Explain to them why a certain sales strategy was employed, or why a large customer bid was won or lost. Take the time to explain why the company made a major (or minor) acquisition or why they had to shed 10% of its workforce. My point being, is that whether or not the decision is viewed as good or bad, popular or unpopular, you need to take the time to explain the “why” to your staff. This builds trust, fosters communication and ultimately builds your credibility as a leader.

2. Explain Why Not – similar to the first point, for the big picture stuff, or even for things that have a major impact on one or two employees, sometimes you just need to explain “why not” to your staff. The need to do this (explain why not) often occurs when employees do things like:

a. make improvement suggestions;
b. refer colleagues to be hired;
c. request an out of cycle pay increase; or,
d. request funds for social or reward types of activities.

There are many times, and for valid reasons, that these requests cannot be accommodated or fulfilled. Perhaps there is a spending freeze or an unanticipated capital purchase that has come up which impacts your ability to make these types of purchases. Perhaps the job that someone was referred for (by one of your employees) was put on hold or cancelled. Maybe your parent company is coming down with its own reward program so you can’t provide funding for a department specific event. Regardless, as a leader, you need to explain the “why not” to your employees. Simply provide some basic facts and provide them with a professional, respectful answer. If there is no explanation given, then your staff will make up their own explanation/reasons for why something can’t be done and believe me when I tell you it will be far worse than the actual truth!

3. Think and Act Big Picture – nothing damages a leader’s credibility more, or doesn’t even allow them to establish it, than getting into the weeds on things. Leaders that micro manage, or focus too much on the very near term or short term on a regular basis (think, tomorrow or even next week) or worse yet, focus on the past, will never establish credibility. Their myopic outlook will never inspire confidence and establish credibility with their staff. As a leader, you need to keep your staff focused on the big picture by providing the vision, guidance and direction on how to get there. Your actions need to focus on enabling and linking your employees’ efforts to the greater good.

4. Understand the Issues – when it comes to the coaching and development of your staff, you need to make sure you take the time to understand the issues. In your department meetings and/or 1:1 coaching sessions, make sure you actively listen to their concerns. Take the time to ask the right questions, probe and get to the root cause of what might be impacting their ability to perform. Solicit and consider staff feedback on things that are impacting the entire department’s ability to be successful. Leadership credibility is established by fostering communication and building trust. This is done through the daily communication touch points you have with your employees. Take advantage of these moments and invest the time in understanding the issues at hand.

5. Admit when you don’t understand – this is, arguably, one of the hardest things for a leader to do but it is so critical to establishing credibility. This is a key area where I have seen far too many leaders get tripped up. For some reason, they feel that if they admit to their staff that they don’t understand something, it is seen as a form of weakness or they think they won’t be respected. So what do they do? They bluff their way out of it! Eventually, everything comes full circle and the leader’s credibility is damaged in the long run. To establish your credibility, admit when you don’t understand something. If the numbers don’t make sense, the sales pitch isn’t clear, or technical problems the group is faced with are not understood by you, than admit it. Ask for clarification. Ask your employee(s) to explain it another way. It is ok to admit that you need clarification because that will help you better support them and allow them to be successful. At the end of the day, this will only serve to build trust and establish your credibility.

When I mentioned at the beginning of this post that you can establish leadership credibility in five easy ways, it was meant to be said a bit tongue in cheek. However, my point is this – it doesn’t take a lot of time, money or effort to begin to establish your credibility. If you focus on humility, honesty, respect and communication as desired outcomes, than you can greatly enhance your leadership credibility in the end. Start with the first two ways and then work your way into the last three, more difficult ones. I wish you the best of luck and as always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

United we Stand?

As a leader, one of your most important functions is the support and development of your direct reports. Specifically, if you have managers that report to you, it is critical that you coach, develop and support them. Part of your role is to make sure that they are obtaining the knowledge, skills and abilities to ultimately (potentially) succeed you in your position. At the very least, in the day to day running of your operations, it is of utmost importance that you are effectively enabling your employees (and your managers) to do their job(s). It is of critical importance that this be done in an environment of trust.

When it comes to managing staff, two of the most important elements that any manager has in their toolkit are credibility and respect. In my opinion, respect is earned and credibility needs to be established. Credibility can be established via technical and/or managerial competence. Managers need to be viewed as credible by their staff, that United we standway, their employees will want to go to them (and accept) for their coaching, direction and feedback. Managers need to be viewed (and supported) as the go to person for their staff. If there are issues within the department, with the employee’s performance, or the way the work is done, the manager is the resource to which an employee needs to consult with. Obviously as the leader of a manager(s), you are an additional resource that employees can come to if the employee has tried to work things out with their manager; however, you cannot position yourself as being the de facto manager by subverting the credibility of your manager.

Here is the crux of what I am getting at – as the leader of a manager(s), it is paramount, if you want a successful management team, that you do not undermine the very managers that report to you. You simply cannot be an enabler and encourage employees to do an end run on their manager simply because they don’t like what they have been tasked to do or because change is required and they are not comfortable with it, or they simply do not like the performance feedback they are getting. By enabling your managers’ direct reports and allowing them to constantly bypass your managers whenever they feel like it, you are completely undermining your management structure. The message you are sending to employees is that it is ok to not communicate with their manager. Your role is to coach this employee to on how to open up dialogue with their manager. Additionally, if you are sensing a theme or pattern, it is YOUR responsibility to have this dialogue and coach your manager and help them improve. It is NOT your role to scapegoat your manager or hang them out to dry to make yourself look good. As Machiavellian as that sounds, I have seen and experienced this type of behavior and ‘leaders’ that act this way, believe it or not, someone think they are promoting their own status in the organization by doing this!

As a leader of managers, you must support the development, growth and credibility of your managers – the way to do this is by presenting a united front so to speak. I know from first-hand experience how damaging it can be to report to someone who undermines your authority and credibility as a manager. Many years ago (many, many) I reported to someone at an offsite location who allowed staff at all levels to call him up at any time to vent, complain, etc. I think this was their way of trying to stay in the loop on things and keep their finger on the pulse, but it was done in all the wrong ways. The problem was that I would often hear, out of the blue, about staff concerns for the first time, or I would be caught off guard by information being presented in a distorted way. Essentially, my manager and created this subversive communication loop that diminished my effectiveness (for their own benefit). If this manager had, at first, re-directed staff back to me for further discussion, it would have created a more supportive and credible environment. Instead what happened was that he created and fostered an environment of distrust. It had me and my management team constantly on edge as we didn’t always know who was saying what to whom and what things employees would escalate directly to him (i.e. didn’t like their performance feedback, or a departmental decision that was made) simply because they knew they had that direct pipeline.

I was fortunate in that situation that my former manager moved on and their replacement firmly believed that managers needed to forge effective relationships with their staff and the only way to do so was through open communication and building trust. He believed that without relationships built on this type of foundation, managers simply could not be effective in their roles. To this day, I still carry that mantra forward and believe that if you want to be an effective leader, you simply cannot openly and directly (or indirectly) undermine your managers’ credibility in any way shape or form. If you are doing this to your managers, than I would submit that one of you (yourself or the manager) is no longer necessary in their role.  Better yet, read here to see if this describes you…… As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Having the tough conversations

One of the more unpleasant tasks that managers have to perform, and thus often try and avoid doing, is having the difficult conversations with their staff. Let’s face it, no one really ‘likes’ to have these conversations with their employees. These conversations could be about almost anything – a particular performance issue, a behavioural issue or even something as basic as someone’s appearance or cleanliness. If you have managed in more than one company and/or industry for any amount of time I bet you have seen, heard or dealt with most of these types of issues as a manager.

Tough ConversationThe struggle for managers, due to the perceived difficulty of having these conversations, is that they often try and avoid having these conversations all together. We often “hope” that the performance issue sorts itself out, or that the person themselves will realize, some magically on their own, that they have a performance issue.  Better yet, we often (secretly) hope that one of their peers will mention something to them, (“Hey you aren’t pulling your weight; or, “you stink”) so we don’t have to! Here’s the thing, as managers, it is our responsibility for having these tough conversations. It is part of the job and the territory we signed up for.  If you can’t or are unwilling to talk to your staff about these types of issues, than you shouldn’t be a manager and for the love of all that is holy, please don’t expect HR to deal with this issues on your behalf!

There is, however, some good news for the managers in all this. If you are like most managers, you build up, in your mind, how these types of conversations are going to go. That is, you start to think of all the negative responses that your employee might come up with, or you start to conjure up in your mind how they will respond emotionally.  You even start think that perhaps they may become angry and volatile so once again you contemplate not having the conversation. Here is the thing; it has been my experience that rarely, if ever, do these tough conversations ever go this way. In fact, with a bit of preparation, the tough conversations don’t end up being that tough after all. I have delivered, and have coached many managers as well, on how to do this and more often than not, the employee response is something like, “thanks for pointing that out…I wasn’t aware.” This response, or ones like it, apply to anything from identifying performance issues to the above mentioned dreaded body odour issue.

So how do you best prepare and handle these types of conversations? For the most part it is pretty simple; just follow these basic steps and principles and you will be well on your way to managing these situations with more effectiveness:

1. Prepare: Gather the relevant information and facts about the situation. Make sure you are 100% certain in your information and aren’t meeting with your employee to talk about speculation. Rehearse the meeting with another manager (or HR) beforehand because the better prepared you are, the easier (and shorter) the meeting will be.

2. Focus on the issue not the person: Once you meet with your employee, get straight to the point. Don’t beat around the bush, simply present them with the information (facts) that you want to discuss. Never make it about personal characteristics or about the person themselves; you should always focus on the work issue.

3. Link the issue with the workplace impact: If their performance is impacting something, than identify where they are falling short, what they need to do to improve, how you can support them and what the performance expectations are. When your employee leaves the meeting with you, they need to be clear about what the issue is that you have identified and what it is that they need to improve. If you are discussing their ‘appearance’, than identify what the problem is (smell, revealing clothing, sloppiness) and what it is impacting (teamwork, clients, credibility, etc.) You can always lead in with, “I am not sure if you are aware or not; however I want to talk to you about something that is impacting your performance/credibility, etc.……” and then present them with the issue and impact.

4. Close firmly but humanely: Thank the person for listening to you, ask them for their cooperation going forward and reiterate the support you can provide going forward.

In a nut shell, that (can be) all there is to it. With a bit of preparation and by following those four steps, you can be better prepared to have the tough conversations with your employees. Over time, by utilizing the four steps, you may find that the tough conversations may not be that tough after all. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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