Confrontation as a leader isn’t easy, but leaders who avoid or delay confrontation are setting themselves up for even more problems in the future. Failing to address issues promptly can also send unwanted or unintended messages to those you lead. As a result, learning to confront people or problems is a skill all leaders need to learn.
Confrontation: Do You Hate It or Love It?
In my many years of leading and working with leaders, I have learned that are two types of leaders when it comes to confrontation: those who say they love it and those who say they hate it. Both leaders have a challenge. If you hate confrontation and avoid it, you will promote dysfunction. If you love confrontation and therefore seek it, you will promote distance between you and those you lead.
THE 10 CONFRONTATION “COMMANDMENTS”
To be effective as a leader when dealing with difficult situations, consider these 10 “commandments” or tips for handling confrontation:
- Thou shalt confront others in private. If you shame someone in front of others, you will worsen the situation.
- Thou shalt confront as soon as possible and not look for “a better time.” This is one of the most common mistakes. Address the issue as close to the issue as possible. Don’t delay.
- Thou shalt stick to the issue at hand. Don’t pile on. Stay focused on the main point. If there are other issues, set up a time to take them on one at a time. When you pile on, you risk overwhelming the individual.
- Thou shalt make thy point and not repeat it. What is your purpose in the confrontation–to win and prove you’re right? That’s a lousy motive and often leads to repeating and circling back to the problem. Confront the issue and move forward to solutions.
- Thou shalt deal only with actions that can be changed. Focus on behaviors that can be changed, don’t make it personal.
- Thou shalt avoid sarcasm (especially in an email or text). Sarcasm or attempts at humor are often not well received when confronting someone. It could be seen as a personal attack and minimizes the importance of the situation.
- Thou shalt avoid words like “always” and “never.” They are rarely accurate. Truth!
- Thou shalt ask questions and offer suggestions. If you allow a confrontation to become a lecture or to feel like a scolding, you risk pushing the person away. Instead, ask questions, be curious, and seek to understand. Help the person grow and improve, and you will pull them closer to you.
- Thou shalt not apologize for the confrontation. Apologizing reduces the importance of the confrontation. It’s also a feeble attempt at making yourself feel better.
- Thou shalt remember to highlight the person’s positive contributions. Address the behavior but affirm the person.
Confrontation doesn’t have to be something that causes division. Keep your motive pure. Are you trying to help this person, show you care for this person, and build trust with this person? If so, you will protect the relationship no matter the seriousness of the message.
About Perry Holley
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with Maxwell Leadership, as well as a published author. As co-host of the Maxwell Leadership Executive Leadership Podcast, he has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.
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