Undoubtedly one of the most difficult tasks of being a leader is having a difficult conversation with someone who is underperforming or behaving inappropriately. Even bosses who I believed handled this aspect of their role with aplomb say that it was a skill that they had to consciously decide to learn and consciously decide to enact.
We all want to be liked and we don’t like to hurt someone’s feelings. Difficult conversations challenge both of those needs.
The seemingly lack of police leaders who are willing to sit down and provide critical feedback or ‘pull someone up’ on misbehaviour has always baffled me. These are officers who, in all other situations, would be described as confident, outspoken, directive, opinionated and even blunt. Yet when it comes to having a frank conversation and giving corrective guidance they duck and weave and do anything to avoid this task.
This unwillingness to tackle poor performance or bad attitude is constantly discussed among the troops because it impacts on everyone within the team.
If the person in question is a low-performer others will quickly become disgruntled that they are having to pick up the slack. Disgruntlement quickly escalates to anger when that individual gets promoted despite low performance.
Similarly, if the person in question is a bully or otherwise destabilising to the team there is the immediate impact on people who are affected by his/her behaviour and then the disbelief when that person is transferred to a prime position elsewhere.
The common understanding is that ‘management don’t deal with problem people; they just move them on so they become someone else’s problem’.
Bosses use the excuse of being hamstrung by complicated administrative procedures that they feel expose them to complaints of bullying if they admonish poor or bad behaviour.
Let’s change that perspective. Leadership is not about you. Leadership is about the people you lead and you as the leader have to take action to assist people in your team and more broadly in your organisation.
A difficult conversation undertaken with the right mindset of support, integrity and responsibility is required. Your discomfort is irrelevant. Some poor performers are unaware of their limitations and it is your role to assist their self-awareness and growth. They may be well aware of their limitations but are embarrassed and don’t know how to improve. They know that you know, and you know that they know. Stop playing games and have a honest discussion.
Some people who are behaving badly are unaware of how they are viewed by others and without your intervention will be ostracised by the team. It is your role to assist that person for their own benefit or to take action to stop inappropriate behaviour for the benefit of your entire team. Simply facilitating the transfer of that person to another unit is irresponsible.
Are you willing to switch the perspective from how your feel to how the other person feels? Are you willing to assist in their development even if there is a period while they don’t like you?
Any discussion if entered into with the right intentions is better than no discussion at all.
Kim Adams is a leadership mindset consultant helping organisations and their people achieve improved focus, better performance, higher engagement and greater wellbeing. Her vision is to empower people to trust in their unique strengths and to be successful on their terms.
YOUR MINDSET, YOUR SUCCESS