Last week I went on vacation to the beach with my husband and another couple, who are one of our best friends. Overall, we had a great time; we had perfect weather and it was a great few days of some much needed rest and relaxation, with only one minor incident that left me a little sour. I won’t draw out the story with all the details, but to make a long story short, me and my friend were trying to pull into a parking lot of our destination next to the main road where a cop was directing traffic. There were no “enter/exit” signs to the parking lot and we were confused on to what exactly he was wanting us to do, so we pulled into the first driveway of the parking lot and found an open spot.
The cop did not appreciate that.
He confronted us in the parking lot and despite our apologetic and respectful response, he was livid and made sure we knew how livid he was. After a few minutes of a lecture and a threat of a $200 ticket, we walked into our destination feeling dejected and a little embarrassed.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of letting us know how we messed up, but the degree and tone of the conversation felt more like we were getting the brunt of someone else’s bad day.
As much as I did not enjoy that experience, it challenged me to reflect on how I would handle that situation if roles were reversed.
As business owners, leaders, parents, and just people in general, you are going to have to confront someone about something at some point. It may be small tweak or adjustment that needs to be made or it may be a big issue that is going to be tough to tackle. The important thing about confrontation is not only doing it, but what is the manner in which it is being done.
How are you approaching it?
Let’s be real. It’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable and sometimes super awkward. If we are not careful with the way we confront people, we can leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth and possibly even burn a bridge. The word confrontation already has a negative connotation to it.
One definition describes it as “a hostile or argumentative meeting”.
So as business owners and leaders, why not try a different approach. Instead of viewing the conversation as a dreaded confrontation, view it as a necessary, constructive communication. You may have bad experiences in the past with this, so here are a few tips to change the posture of the conversation to where it is more productive and less hostile.
1) Do not enter the conversation in a high emotional state. Take some time to take a step back, gather your thoughts and approach the situation in a calm manner. This will allow for a more clear and constructive dialogue rather than becoming an escalated screaming match.
2) Know your audience. When approaching the conversation, know who you are talking to and how they generally handle feedback. By understanding your employees and how they respond to feedback will help you navigate the conversation in order to allow for a more productive conversation.
3) Communicate Clearly. Be clear and specific on what the issue(s) is that you are addressing. Communicate clearly what your expectations are moving forward in order to prevent another repetitive conversation.
4) Solicit Feedback. Give the person an opportunity to give feedback or their perspective. You may discover underlying factors that you were not aware of and can change the course of plan going forward. This also gives them an opportunity to be heard and feel that their voice matters as well.
5) Move forward in a positive note. While this may not always be the case, try to end the conversation in a positive, uplifting manner that releases the tension. This could be setting different goals or making a game plan to move forward.
And lastly and most importantly:
6) Don’t avoid it. Believe me, I have learned this the hard way. The more you avoid the conversation, the more it builds up inside until you’ve reached the tipping point. That usually leads to an explosion of issues that have been pressing you for the last several months. This is not fair to the person you are confronting nor is it a healthy practice for communication. Also viewing it in a biblical perspective, this is not obedient to how God has called us to act. By letting bitterness and anger harbor inside us, we are allowing ourselves to feel more tension and less peace.
“In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”Ephesians 4: 26-27
So, let’s change the perspective. Instead of viewing confrontation as a necessary evil that you avoid until is unavoidable and end up approaching it in a way that is unhealthy and unproductive, view it as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to be proactive in the way you communicate, lead and challenge not only your employees, but also yourself to grow. Not only that, but as Christian business owners and leaders, be aware and obedient to how God has called you to lead your business, setting an example for your employees and others, so that they can see Christ in your words and actions.