If you dread having a difficult conversation with someone on your work team, I have bad news and good news for you.
The bad news is that if the issue is urgent and the stakes are big, you’ll still have to have the conversation. Hopefully it won’t be too hard and the team member can receive what you have to say in the most open and positive way possible. Once you do it, you will feel relief.
The good news is that this big hassle is a powerful reminder that you want to handle feedback differently going forward. There IS another option. You can offer little chunks of helpful feedback to people on a regular basis. Things don’t have to build up to a the level of “crucial.” And a huge bonus is that your team members will be happier if you start being honest with them on a regular basis.
The first thing you have to do is to let people on your team know what you are doing or they’ll get very worried. You have to fess up to the fact that you haven’t coached people enough and you want to start doing a better job of it. You have to announce the fact that you want to start having regular conversations with them about how they’re doing and how you’re doing. You have to let them know they are not being singled out and that you’ll be setting up conversations with everybody.
Then you have to start doing it. Set up an initial thirty minute meeting with each person on your team. Use COIN:
Connect with them personally and refer to what’s important to them–like a goal, an aspiration, or a value
Observe by sharing what you’ve noticed about their one or two aspects of their work–something good and something that needs improvement
Impact is what you need to explain to help them see how they are affecting the business–like with customers, costs, or innovation
Next steps make this all meaningful. Discuss how things can get even better
And now ask for their feedback to you, as their coach and manager.
There. It’s done. You’ll be doing this with your star performers and your not-so-star performers. But you’ve started. And it’s not such a big deal.
Next week and next month and after that meeting–you can have a five minute exchange because you’ve opened the lines of honest communication.
If you really really do this, I promise that you will not have to have one big blowup “crucial” conversation later.