Leaders and managers often struggle with having very direct conversations with their employees while maintaining a courteous demeanor. Management consultant Fred Lee provides some helpful verbal tools:
First, for a new employee or tenured person not performing up to standards: “(I need a person in your position who (fill in the blank, depending on the specific behaviors needed for the position) and I hope it can be you.”
As you observe their performance and notice they are not delivering on what they committed to do, you modify the approach a bit:
“I needed a person in your position who (fill in the blank again), and I had hoped it would be you.” As soon as you finish this last statement, sit back and create a vacuum in which the person can choose to respond. In other words, stop talking and give them the floor! Your level of comfort with silence will be directly proportional to the effectiveness of this conversation.
A few additional questions that might be helpful in this context:
· “Regarding (fill in the behavior you are coaching them on), how would you evaluate yourself?”
· “How do you think your coworkers would rate you on (fill in the behavior)?”
· “What is the bind you put me and/or the department in when you do/do not do (fill in the behavior)?”
An early U2 song, “11 O’clock Tick-Tock,” observes, “We thought that we had the answers/It was the questions we had wrong.” Sometimes we just need a few good phrases and questions in our arsenal to be more effective in helping people to move performance—or help them move out of the organization. Try it!