As your business grows you hire tradesmen and office staff. It’s an exciting time full of possibilities. However, after a few months the niggles set in.
Someone turns up late. Or it’s a bad attitude. Perhaps a few mistakes and your team stops following the systems and the processes that you've put in place. Now, what do you do? Most people do nothing! It's just a minor blip and you hope it'll sort itself out. You sweep it under the carpet.
But then it happens again and frustration levels reach boiling point. Perhaps you say nothing, because you're scared that people might leave or they may not like you. The rest of the team notices, they get frustrated and you find the whole culture of your operation suffers.
Eventually you get to the point where you're ready to explode with frustration and you’re not able to be constructive. What you want is a process for having those hard conversations so you can have the confidence to take control of your business and team.
Step one is having a clearly written code of conduct which outlines the expected behaviours.
If and when the code is broken, there’s a ten-step process for having those difficult performance conversations.
1. Call it.
This seems straightforward but it’s usually the most challenging. If you can call the behaviour early and consistently, this will usually be enough.
2. Pick an appropriate time to call it.
It’s best to call the behaviour when it’s fresh in people’s minds. However it’s best not to call it in front of clients or the team. Humiliating someone isn’t going to get you anywhere, plus it’s unprofessional.
3. Acknowledge your feelings.
If you’re uncomfortable, acknowledge it! You can say something like “I don’t feel comfortable talking about this, but I’ve been disappointed that you’ve shown up to work late the past few days.”
4. Ask permission to call it.
Choose a time that best suits both parties, preferably the next available time.
5. Correct the behaviour, not the person.
Saying something like “It looks like filling out your timesheets are becoming a problem, we all agreed to this with the rules of the game and it seems like you’re having a tough time?” What you’re doing is letting the code legislate the behaviour, like an impartial policeman.
6. State specifically what didn’t work.
It would be easy to go into every issue and turn it into a grump session, but that’s not going to help. Stick to the specific issue and deal with that. If you deal with issues early you won’t have more than one to deal with.
7. Clarify the benefits
Clarify the benefits for correcting the behaviour, not just for the team but for the person involved. For instance, “When you get your job cards in on time, we can invoice the client quickly and that's going to help you hit your targets for the incentive programme.”
Let them answer without any rebuttal and get some feedback from their perspective.
9. Acknowledge the desired behaviour.
When the team member exhibits the behaviour you want, you’ve got to acknowledge it and give them positive reinforcement.
10. Call yourself!
Leading from the front will have the biggest influence on encouraging the behaviours you want. If you break the code of conduct, put your hand up and say, “Hey guys, I didn’t come up to standard, I’ll do better next time.”
If you want more information around having difficult conversations with staff, I’ve shot a free video: “Difficult conversations with staff”, you can see it here.