One of the toughest thing to do for leaders is to have tough conversations with team members about something that urgently needs to change simply because they don’t know how to handle confrontation as a leader.
Take Emily for example. She has just been promoted to Senior Management position, overseeing the Production and the Quality Assurance team in her company.
Before Emily’s promotion, she’s friend with the Production and the Quality Assurance Team Leads. She’s nice, kind-hearted and very generous, she also knows that these two friends have personal problems with each other.
After a few months in her new position as a Senior Manager, Emily discovered that the percentage of bad and damaged goods are on the rise and the production team is not meeting their targets.
Emily knew she had to do something about the situation but she’s afraid to confront the Production and the Quality Assurance Team Leads to let them know that their personal hostility towards each other might be affecting the team and the company as a whole.
The same qualities — gentleness, niceness, generous heart —that works for Emily when she was leading a small team is now her liability as a Senior Manager.
What makes you likable to the people can destroy your organization if, at the expense of being liked, you won’t confront what needs to be confronted. — T.D. Jakes
Are you like Emily? A good person, an emerging leader, but always try to avoid confrontation?
If you don’t confront the issues that are negatively affecting your team when they are small, they will soon become big issues that can impact your own credibility as a leader and ultimately your job.
Three Effective Ways to Handle Confrontation as a Leader
As a leader, you cannot ignore having tough conversations if you want the organization to move forward. So, how do you effectively handle confrontation and set things straight as a leader?
- Don’t avoid confrontation. The more you try to escape tough conversations, the worst things will get. Summon the courage to call whoever needs to be called and say whatever needs to be said, you are in charge.
- Confront the issue, not the person. If the issue is about production numbers and product quality, let the conversation be about the issue and let the person understand that you are not against them personally, but their performance.
- Practice the 101% principle. This is the most important of the three. Before you bring up the issue, find 1% thing they are doing very well and give it 100% affirmation and attention. As the old saying goes, you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. Remember:
Affirmation comes before confrontation. — John C. Maxwell
Next time you need to confront an issue with a team member, let them understand how they are contributing positively to the organization and how the issue is contributing negatively to the organization.
Have you had any reason to confront any of your team members in the past? How did you handle it? Have you been confronted by your leader in the past, how did you think they handled it? Share your thoughts.