People need to be heard, but its the leader’s job to sift through the emotions, innuendos, veiled statements, insecurities, ignorance, assumptions, etc., to get down to the nitty gritty. Allow me to suggest “The Method.” Now it doesn’t work in all situations but it works in a whole lot of them and can be modified or tweaked. “The Method” is a script that should be followed after the venting has occurred. These questions and actions get the conversation back into focus and allows the leader to direct conversation towards solutions and advancement.
1. Have you discussed with XXX?
There is very often a chain of command, pecking order, etc that folks are supposed to use when running stuff up the flag pole. Require folks to honor this protocol and then deal with the issues which have done so. If you make it a habit to entertain minutia then you undermine the authority of those who have the responsibility of doing so and take up a lot of your valuable time. If the issue has been discussed with the appropriate parties and there has been no resolution then you need to get “the players” in the room together.
2. Have you told xxx what your concerns are?
When #1 is not valid then this should come into play. People manage conflict by avoidance and sometimes as leaders you have to put the onus back on the person to deal with their own problems. Support them in doing so in respectful ways but don’t always be the “bad cop.”
3. Require the naming of names…make them be specific
Your time is valuable. If an issue is brought to you for handling then you need the specifics. Don’t do the electric slide for 20 minutes and play 20 questions to figure out the who, the what, the when, and the how just because they don’t want to be direct. (That’s probably part of the problem)
4. Define the next steps
What others assume and what actions you will take could be very different. Let them know what you plan to do and if possible give a time line. Give the bringer of the problem some action steps (if appropriate) so that they are engaged in the resolution. Don’t take ownership of the problem, facilitate the reaching of a decision/resolution.
5. Follow up and follow through.
This keeps you credible. If you are going to make a decision then make it and be done with it. Don’t beat around the bush if you don’t have to do so (in some cases because of politics or sensitive issues it may be necessary for you to do so…)
6. Close Out
If the case is closed and you are no longer giving it your energy, effort, time, attention, then don’t leave folks hanging. Once you get to this point inform folks.
For help with handling conversations effectively read “How to Rise Above Butterfly Conversations,” by Dan Rockwell. His perspective is direct and cuts through the fluff that gets us sidetracked.
ENNA A BACHELOR