How do you as the leader set the example? How do you muster up the courage to speak to a team member who has a bad attitude or poor performance?
Fred is habitually late for work and his peers are not happy. Colleagues are always complaining that Sandra takes longer than her allocated breaks. People within the team won’t, or don’t know how to, speak up and tell Fred or Sandra that their behaviour is just not acceptable.
If best practice is not followed when it comes to dealing with performance issues appropriately and sensitively, it can lead to unhealthy and unproductive outcomes that may affect the entire workplace (Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman n.d.).
When you are afraid or don’t have the skills to tackle under-performance and attitude issues in your team, the culture begins to suffer. Perhaps it’s about not knowing how to make the first step in languaging the conversation. Maybe your skills within this area are a little clunky, and who couldn’t do with a few more strategies to make conversations more effective?
Maybe as a leader you avoid challenging conversations when your ‘fight or flight‘ mechanism in your brain goes into overdrive upon sensing a difficult conversation coming on, because somewhere along the line you have learned that they can be painful (Sochon 2016).
I am sure that you are very aware that procrastinating and burying your head in the sand will not do your culture any favours. The ‘resourceful’ members in your team will pretty soon become fed up, and will begin to feel extremely undervalued when their leader doesn’t step up and address what they see as a requirement of your role.
You do know that challenging conversations are not going to go away, and it’s no use pretending that this part of your role doesn’t exist. Your team won’t thank you for not taking action.
What’s more, the Freds & Sandras of this world will continue to disrupt the team, day in day out, week in week out, whilst your accountable team members fast become disillusioned, and are left feeling undervalued when you choose not to address poor performance.
They will identify you as a leader that does not have the backbone to tackle the requirements of your role.
Imagine what it will be like in six months to a year, if you have not found a way to overcome the fear that surrounds these challenging conversations. Consider the work that won’t get done. What will your sick leave be like? How many of your team members will have looked for work elsewhere?
Think about this for a moment. You have conversations with people every day, don’t you? You don’t even give them a second thought. So what is so hard about these so called ‘difficult’ conversations? Why are you are so terrified to take action when you know it is the right thing to do as a leader?
Maybe it goes something a little like this:
Any of this sound familiar? I am sure it does, we have all been there at some stage in our careers.
Here’s how I turned this fear around and you can too:
What are you going to choose to do differently now with the information you have?
Use the tips above to take a different look at how you turn up as a leader, when faced with those challenging conversations. Your team will thank you for it!