Confronting Employees Without Losing Them
You work hard to find good employees for your company. Your managers work just as hard to keep them. Your company leaders depend on those good employees to move the vision forward and grow the bottom line.
Maybe that’s why confronting employees can be such a struggle for you and your leaders —you’re all afraid of losing them. It’s easier in the short-term to tolerate issues that might hurt the company eventually than to risk losing them for certain.
But the best companies create a culture that dares to confront when needed, a culture that mixes care with candor—in the correct ratio. For example, as much as some people might like to think of your company as a family, businesses must function differently.
Do your managers think they should always treat employees like family? Many leaders think that approach will empower them to confront subordinates without destroying the relationship. This type of thinking is usually not true.
What makes a family great isn’t what makes a business team great. Families value community over contribution. Businesses value contribution over community.
The best teams strike a balance of care and candor.
Yes, your leaders should treat people with respect and build positive relationships. In fact they are uniquely positioned to help good employees grow.
But the relationships they build create an opportunity for them to be candid about problems with those good employees when necessary.
The Right Mix of Care and Candor
Before your leaders begin confronting employees, they need to know if the problem is one of ability or attitude. As leadership consultant Dr. Samuel R. Chand says, “We hire people for what they know and fire them for who they are.”
If the issue is ability, then training may be in order. If the problem is a poor attitude, confronting employees with care gives them the opportunity to change. People can improve their abilities and change their attitudes.
Candor without care creates distant relationships. But care balanced with candor creates developing relationships.
Here are four truths to share with your team leaders to help them confront with that critical balance of care and candor:
- Caring Values the Person while Candor Values the Person’s Potential: To be successful, leaders must let people know they are valued. Caring for others shows them the value you see in them, but helping them get better means being honest about where they need to improve. Candor shows that a leader values a person’s potential. One of the secrets of being candid is for leaders to think, speak, and act in terms of who the person has the potential to become and how to help them achieve it.
- Caring Establishes the Relationship While Candor Expands the Relationship: Care and common ground help establish a relationship, but expanding a relationship requires candor and open communication. Leaders shouldn’t be reluctant to have difficult conversations because it may make them uncomfortable or they don’t want to hurt the employee. The right balance of care and candor creates an opportunity to deepen and strengthen the relationship. When your leaders have candid conversations and that person hangs in there and grows, your good employee takes the next step toward becoming a great employee.
- Caring Defines the Relationship While Candor Directs the Relationship: It’s good for your managers to build solid relationships by caring for people, but a solid relationship doesn’t mean they’re going anywhere together. Sometimes candor is required for leaders to move the team forward. Retired Army general and former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, noted, “Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable—if you’re honorable.” To lead a team of people well, leaders must be willing to direct individuals candidly.
- Caring Should Never Suppress Candor, While Candor Should Never Displace Caring: The bottom line is that good leaders must embrace both care and candor. Candid conversations are a leader’s responsibility and must be done—but in the right way with the right attitude. In the long term, it’s best not only for the team and the organization, but also for the good employee who needs to hear what needs to be said so he or she can improve.
These conversations aren’t the favorite part of anyone’s day, but they may hold the key to breakthrough success for your leaders and their teams. People who add value to others almost always do so intentionally.
Your employees need strong relationships—care—and leaders who care enough to confront—candor. When the leaders in your company go about confronting employees with the right balance of both, your teams will be prepared to take their production to the next level and your good employees will be on their way to becoming your best employees.
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