How to have effortless managerial conversations

Do you want to have easier, more effective conversations with your team members?  Are you tired from avoiding potentially difficult conversations, hoping the situation will resolve itself?

I know that’s how I felt for many years while managing a team of 25  in my last business.  I would avoid difficult conversations for days and weeks (maybe even months) and when I finally had the conversation, it would blow up in my face.  I felt stuck.

Things started to change when I started to change (My coach always tells me, “If you want a better business, you need to become a better business owner)  I became more systematic and purposeful with my managerial conversations and, in doing so, started seeing less hurt emotions and greater performance improvements.  

This framework is a combination of what I’ve learned from over 20 years of business ownership as well as what I’ve gleaned from others.  Put this into practice and watch the quality and temperament of your difficult conversations improve overnight.

  1. Affirmation – The first thing you want to do is acknowledge the team member.  Acknowledge them, both as an individual and their value to the company.  
  2. Purpose – Tell them exactly why you are meeting with them today.  You may also want to lay out the primary issues or themes to be discussed.
  3. Data – There is a reason you are having this conversation, communicate that reason.  It should be in the form of some data either from their performance numbers (taken from a CRM or other source), a certain event, or maybe you saw or heard something.  Whatever the source of the data, make sure you are very clear on its source and relevance. 
  4. Explanation – With an open mind, invite the team member to explain the data.  You should listen responsively without judgment.  During the conversation, if any of your data is incorrect, acknowledge it and own the mistake.  If there are any other changes you need to make as a leader, own them as well.
  5. Ownership – Assuming the data is correct, require the team member to interact with it.  Create space for them to take ownership of the problem.
  6. Identify – Help the team member identify their own plan to improve.  This is where you want to coach them by asking questions and helping them create their own plan which will give them greater ownership in the results.
  7. Expectations – Explain and/or review your expectations of the team member.  These expectations may be new or you may need to look at your agreement and discuss what they’ve agreed to.
  8. Consequences – There should be some discipline for failure to improve their performance in this area and you may want to include a reward for improved performance.  A written agreement regarding these specific issues should also be drafted so if this conversation needs to happen again, you have a mutually agreed upon statement from this conversation.
  9. Affirmation again – Express confidence in the team member in their ability to improve performance.  Affirm them, both as an individual and their value to the company.

Business owners often give me the deer in the headlights look after showing this to them.  If after looking at this framework, you’re thinking, “I can’t do all of that!”  You’re right, you can’t.  Like many things in life, we cannot outperform our beliefs.  If you’ve already told yourself you can’t do that, you’ve already thrown in the towel.

But what would happen if you told yourself, “Where can I start?” What would be a logical first step for you to start implementing this so that in six months you have implemented this whole framework?

What would owning your business look like if you could effortlessly have managerial conversations that resulted in moving the needle forward in regards to employee performance?  

Conversely, what would happen if you didn’t do anything and in one year from now were in the same situation?

When you start implementing a more systemized way of managing your team, don’t make every closed-door conversation a difficult one.  In The One Minute Manager, Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson share a simple approach to managing a team effectively.  Their approach revolves around three types of meetings:

  • One minute goal setting
  • One minute praise
  • One minute reprimands

If every closed-door meeting you have is a result of poor performance, your team will not perform at the levels they’re capable of.  Make sure you are consistently meeting with your team to not only discuss performance issues, but also praising them for the work they are doing and collaborating with them on their goals to help them perform at their best.

One thing you can do is create a rhythm of meetings, both as a team, and with each of them individually.  This will help you create a culture of accountability and collaboration.

If you have any questions about managing your team effectively, book some time on my calendar here:  

Bonus: as you work on implementing this system, you are not only benefiting yourself and your team now, but also into the future.  As business owners, one of our primary goals should be to systemize every aspect of our business.  When it comes time to replace yourself at the managerial level, you’ll have the systems in place necessary to create a business not overly dependent on you.  This can be one of the most important systems you implement in your business if you ever want to experience true freedom from running the daily operations of your business.

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