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The Avoidance Game

By July 28, 2015February 14th, 2019Articles, Leadership

Conflict“Our biggest problems arise from the avoidance of smaller ones.” ~ Jeremy Caulfield

You know you have to do it. You know you need to do it. You know it can’t go on any longer but you just can’t do it. In fact, you can’t be bothered.

The lazy employee, the employee who continually steps out of line, the employee who is damaging the culture, the associate who has breeched your trust, the client who isn’t paying their bills, the friend who lacks integrity, the person who keeps lying to you. You know you need to confront the situation so you’ll do it tomorrow.

Tomorrow comes and there’s just too much to do so you’ll do it next week.

Next week never comes. The situation gets worse. You’re increasingly annoyed and it’s consuming your thoughts. But now time has got away from you so it seems to be inappropriate to drag something up that’s now in the past to address it.

The confronting conversation or the critical conversation is something that a good majority of people in and out of business avoid. And probably with good reason I mean if you dissect what is about to happen – the ‘confronting’ conversation – this wouldn’t motivate anyone to take action. It’s suggesting that there’s going to be a confrontation – one of the biggest things humans like to avoid! Danger!

In my many years of leadership I have had countless conversations like this. In fact I created a business around it! Where you have to address something you know (or are assuming) the other person isn’t going to appreciate. I used to get incredibly nervous with these conversations, I’d have sweaty palms, my voice would shake and I was less than convincing! I clearly had to get better so in order to do so I had to change my mindset and my approach.

Here’s the thing; what if these conversations don’t have to be confronting? What if they are simply a conversation about your observations, keeping things to fact and keeping emotion out of it rather than being accusational and aggressive? It certainly puts a different spin on things and encourages better outcomes.

So here are 5 tips for you to empower you with techniques for having these conversations and enabling better outcomes:

  1. Never have the conversation when angry – lock in a time for the following day when you’ve had time to cool down and think things through logically rather than emotively. Ensure you have the conversation within 24-48 hours of the situation occurring.
  2. Open the conversation by letting the other person know you’d like to have a chat about X and come to an agreeable outcome.
  3. Be prepared and stick to the Facts. Use language like you have observed the other person doing X, it impacts the business or you in a certain way. You are then not accusing but simply observing behaviour etc and this creates a different dynamic. Ask the person for their opinion/thoughts/version of accounts and listen, don’t interrupt or argue.
  4. Ask the person what they think the solution might be and what has to change in order to prevent the situation happening again. This might be behaviour, language, attitude, results etc
  5. Don’t leave the conversation open ended. Come to an agreement that you can move forward with or set a timeframe by which a plan or strategy needs to be presented to you for consideration.

These conversations can be incredible successful if approached in the right way and with the right mindset. Technically what you are doing is bringing to the attention of another the behaviour or situation that is unacceptable to you, why this is and working towards a solution. You are simply proving someone with the opportunity to improve or to rectify a situation.

My advice is to work this through with someone first. A colleague (without breaching trust), trusted advisor or coach etc. The better prepared you are the better the result will be.