One of my clients, a successful CEO of a thriving services company was recently confiding how she felt about conflict. “As much as I know that I need to confront my employees regarding their missteps, I have a really hard time doing so. I put it off for weeks; I run through the conversations and scenarios in my head repeatedly; I wake up in the middle of the night, stressing about confrontation. I know I should be better at conflict and difficult conversations, given I am the CEO, but it is something I have struggled with throughout my career.” Does this sound familiar? Do you put off confronting your subordinates and/or superiors at work? To overcome this common business challenge – the avoiding of confrontation and conflict – we need to adopt a different and more positive perspective about confrontation. I call this new perspective “Growthfrontation.” Yes, the word itself is a mouthful, but if we can all choose to view every conflict or confrontation at work as an opportunity for behavioral and professional growth – for the other person and often for ourselves – we will be far more inclined to initiate such difficult conversations. So, what does Growthfrontation look like? How does one engage in a confrontation that grows people? Here are a few tips:
- Leave the Drama Behind – Your message to your colleague will fall on deaf ears if you deliver it from a place anger and emotion.
- Create the Context – At the beginning of the conversation, say something like “This may be a tough conversation. That said, I want to get to the bottom of this [issue, challenge, problem, project delay, etc.] in the spirit of learning and growth.”
- Listen with Deep Curiosity – After introducing the general topic, ask for your colleague to recount his/her side of the story, without judging, defending, criticizing or contradicting. Allow your colleague to finish and make sure they know you understand them.
- Probe for More Information – Once you have heard their entire side of the story, use open-ended questions to elicit more information about their choice of behaviors and actions. Keep probing until you have a strong sense of the deep level “whys” behind their behaviors and actions.
- What Next? – Ask them how they propose to make things right. You are not serving them by finding solutions to the problems they have created. To grow your colleagues as leaders, you must allow them to lead. Of course, you may have to challenge them to arrive at a suitable solution.
- Be a Champion – In wrapping up the conversation, champion your colleague’s efforts and let them know you believe they can create the positive desired outcome. Avoid the temptation to threaten and humiliate.
By adopting the perspective of “Growthfrontation”, namely that all confrontations should be handled in the spirit of professional growth, you will be far more likely to engage in those confrontations in a timely manner! The more you use the principles of Growthfrontation, the easier it will become to have the next conversation.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® Seminars
By this point in your career you are probably well aware of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® Assessment and seminars. At some point in your career, you may have even completed the assessment and received your “four letters.” Have you completed the MBTI® recently and with your current team? A one day MBTI® seminar is a reliable, cost-effective way to introduce the concepts of self-discovery and team building to your current senior team. Please contact me for details.
Peter Feer, CPCC, ACC