A true leader engages in difficult conversations right away and directly with the person involved. Leaders realize that difficult conversations aren’t mean or unpleasant conversations. There are unemotional, fact-based ways to communicate seemingly difficult topics. Leaders also understand that their responsibility is to deal with issues as soon as they present themselves. This is how they tell the rest of the staff that the goals of the company are paramount.
Example of a non-leader: Destructive | no input | emotion-filled
The scenario: A sales manager calls a member of the sales team into their office and begins to berate him for a lack of sales. Everyone in the department can hear the sales manager even though the door is closed. Besides the fact that the sales manager is emotional and yelling at the salesman, he/she is also criticizing him and using negative pejorative labels like “lazy,” “inept” and “stupid.” He/she ends the diatribe with a threat to the salesman’s employment status.
The result: The salesman is not only unmotivated to proceed but doesn’t know what to do to improve. The salesman hasn’t learned anything and he wasn’t brought into the conversation. Actually, there was no conversation — it was a one-sided push. The salesman is no further along the problem-solving road than he was when he entered the office. Moreover, the rest of the sales staff has been negatively impacted by the event. So the sales manager has created more problems while not solving the lack of sales issue.
Example of a leader: Constructive | seeks input | unemotional
The scenario: A sales manager calls a member of the sales team into their office to discuss the salesman’s lack of sales. The first thing the sales manager does is ask the sales person to share his experience. How is he approaching the process? Where is he running into a disconnect? How is he communicating with prospects and clients? The sales manager then starts a collaborative conversation around alternative processes. The goal is to help the salesman create a different process that should bring greater results.
The result: Together they create a process the salesman can implement. The entire conversation is focused on problem solving. The salesman leaves the conversation with a plan and a belief that he can succeed at the plan. The rest of the sales staff understands that the goal is for everyone to be successful; that when the salespeople are successful the company will be.
The difference matters because of the outcomes. When someone behaves like example 2, they are leading the organization and realize positive results. When they behave like example 1, the organization struggles to grow. Anyone in a leadership role is better off communicating in a constructive, unemotional way that elicits involvement and buy-in. Then they will be a leader who others want to follow.
Diane Helbig is a professional coach and the president of Seize This Day Coaching. She’s also a contributing editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.