I Do Wish People Would Stop Agreeing With Me…..
That’s not really true, I love it when people agree with me!! ? The thing I’m getting frustrated with is when I talk to people about how we, as a society seem to have become very much averse to having difficult conversations with each other, they nod and agree with me. Then what happens……? Nothing, most of the time. It’s become the most acknowledged and least addressed issue of the new millennium ☹ And I don’t mean that I don’t want to have those conversations any more and have people stop agreeing with me but it would be amazing if somewhere along the line those conversations could facilitate a change.
When Did It Change?
I remember having conversations with my parents, Teachers, Course Trainers and Line Managers about aspects of my performance and behaviour that weren’t up to scratch or acceptable and while I might not have loved it at the time, I respected that someone cared enough about me to take the time to guide me, offer me feedback, usually in a constructive way, show me what they were expecting to see and role model that behaviour. It sounds idyllic doesn’t it but I can remember those people still today. We remember great Teachers don’t we, great Line Managers who supported us and helped us to develop? So when did all that change?
When did the risk of a bullying and harassment card being laid on the table make us fearful of offering advice and guidance? I think I’ve said this before but while coaching and mentoring programmes are brilliant, we can’t always coach or mentor someone out of poor performance. Sometimes we need to have a kind, compassionate and difficult conversation with people, to offer support, advice and guidance as to why their performance or behaviour isn’t where it needs to be. That’s showing someone kindness in my view, not being mean to them. It takes a lot more flippin energy to have a difficult conversation with someone than to tell everyone they’re brilliant, so hats off to you if you are doing that cos it ain’t easy!
The Legacy Is Tripping Us Up
I think the Millennium Bug ran off with our strength and determination to do the right thing and to address performance and behavioural issues, as that seems to be around the time when things changed and the longer it goes on, the more the legacy of it is tripping us up. If you try to have a conversation with someone about their performance now, when no one’s done that for years, you’re quite likely to see a bullying and harassment card laid down as you’re telling someone something that’s not been said for a long time so that must mean that you’re a bully, rather than no one else had the b**** to say anything. And we won’t even start to think about whether your feedback is actually true! It’s just easier not to bother isn’t it because it’s too big a hurdle to get over and you’ve got lots of other work to do….? “I’ll just leave it and see what happens…”
Newsflash – these issues will not miraculously correct themselves!
Offering Advice and Guidance
If you are seeing performance or behavioural issues from someone, either at work, at home or in another setting it’s important to establish whether things are OK first. If people demonstrate behaviour that’s out of character for them or drop their performance level when they’re usually tip top, that’s a flag for you to arrange a conversation with them to see if there’s something that’s influencing that change. Whether that then needs a supportive conversation and reasonable adjustments, or a more difficult conversation to confirm that change is required, the vehicle is the same. You need to speak to people, to offer support as part of your duty of care towards them, and to guide them back to acceptable behaviour and performance if that’s required. It is hard work but that’s what you’re being paid for if you’re a Line Manager or not paid for if you’re a Parent – sorry!
Is It Too Big Problem?
Yes, is my answer to that, I think it has become too big a problem to resolve quickly and easily, and we’ll struggle with the consequences for many years to come unfortunately. The strange thing is that for me, the ability to have a difficult conversation is under-pinned by our level of confidence and in these emotionally more enlightened times people’s confidence levels seem to be dropping as opposed to being developed. How can that be when we have access to so many experts on You Tube and via things like TEDTalks? People who can tell us exactly what we need to do to develop our confidence and self-esteem? Maybe that’s because we don’t feel connected with these people because they’re not really in our lives. They’re not people we know well, like and respect, and so the message they give us is diluted. It’s just easy to nod and say “I totally agree, well done!” and then not do anything as a result of what we’ve seen.
If you think about your parents, the Teachers, Course Trainers and Line Managers that you remember who challenged you to do better, I bet that makes you smile. The good ones at least. You respect them and remember them fondly because they had the confidence, maturity, wisdom and kindness to take the time to guide you. OK, so it might have been their job to do that but as a Line Manager, friend, colleague or parent, sibling or family member, it is your job to do that for other people too. You’d like someone to do that for you wouldn’t you?
Wouldn’t it be lovely to be remembered by the people you influence now, the way you remember the people that helped and guided you? For no other reason than that, have a think about your approach to challenging unacceptable behaviour or performance. Because if you don’t challenge it, you imply that’s it’s OK and so become complicit in that person’s lack of performance or inappropriate behaviour. Will they think kindly of you, with respect when they look back? Only you can answer that but it’s a great legacy to have if you can create it. My personal development workshops (link here) can help, as can individual coaching but thinking about the legacy of your leadership is a great way to start thinking about what your style is and can be.
If you don’t have difficult conversations with people, you make it harder for other people to do so, which in the short term might make your problem go away. But in the longer term you will, at some point come across someone that you need to have that difficult conversation with and that will be made all the more difficult if you’re the first person to do it. Just bear that in mind, when you think “I don’t think I can do this…”. If we’re all supporting each then we have a vested interest in having those difficult conversations don’t we? Although I’m not sure that we are all supporting each other any more and maybe that’s at the root of the problem. Sigh.
Right! Now I’ve totally depressed us all so let’s see if a mental image can cheer us up. Picture all of the people that you can influence in your life; your family and friends, the people you work with and know through social groups. You are stood at the front of the group a bit like the Conductor of an Orchestra. You are about to direct these people. As you look across the group, the people with halos above their heads are the ones who will remember you fondly, who like, love and respect you already, the ones who are sticking two fingers up at you might need a bit more work!! ?
Take good care please, direct and challenge people beautifully and have a great day.
Best wishes, Karen