June 2011

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff


Confronting Confrontation

Have you ever encountered your boss, wandering around like a mad dog looking for confrontation, ready to rip into an employee?

Confrontation is not something most people seek out. It does not feel good to confront, yet, it is something that leaders must deal with. This leads us to ask, how do you confront confrontation?

"I don't like confrontation," is something that leaders tell me all the time. My response is always, "Who does?"

However, it is important that leaders make peace and deal effectively with confrontation. In a leadership role, the first step is to accept confrontation for what it really is: a conversation seeking to resolve a problem or situation that has the potential to become emotional as well as one that cannot be postponed.

Consider these no-compromise thoughts to help confront confrontation effectively:

You are the voice of the company: It is your job to speak on behalf of your company. When you avoid, procrastinate, or engage in the conversation but candy-coat the issue, you are compromising the well-being of the company, its employees and customers. Engaging in difficult conversations is what you signed on for when you accepted the role of leader.

It is not about you: If you get a ticket for speeding, you have to accept you were speeding. The police officer gave you a ticket because you chose to speed. When dealing with behavior or performance issues, you are addressing the chosen behaviors of employees that compromise the standards and culture of the company. Do not make it personal.

Keep the conversation safe: It is natural to anticipate that an employee will negatively react during a confrontational conversation. When the conversation begins, you are looking for that anticipated reaction which can trigger a more aggressive response from you. It is like a trap you set for yourself. When the conversation gets aggressive on either side, the natural reaction is "fight or flight." This is when things can get ugly. It is your job to keep the conversation safe and focused on achieving the desired outcome.

Avoid "I-just-want-to-get-it-over-with" thinking: Of course, you want to get the conversation over with, but you cannot keep the conversation safe when your tactic is to drop a bomb and see what happens. These conversations take time, so give them time.

So, you like to procrastinate: "Giving into a leadership blockage today gives you a bigger problem tomorrow." Avoiding confrontational conversations is a leadership blockage. The longer you avoid a problem, the bigger it gets. The bigger the problem gets, the more emotional and volatile the conversation can become. No-compromise leadership means, "If it needs to be done – get it done."

Flip it: Simply changing your perspective to coaching can help you work through a confrontational conversation. Help an employee reach his or her full potential by coaching them. "Stop doing that" is not coaching. Asking an employee how he or she could have approached a situation differently and discussing alternatives feels a whole lot better than initiating a verbal battle.

Then there are those tough ones: Yes, there will be those conversations that fail to reach the desired resolution. These conversations become heated, possibly not ending well. These are learning opportunities to grow as a leader. No-compromise leaders are not perfect – but they try to get better every day.

Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching salon specializing in the salon and spa industry. Ducoff is the author of Fast Forward, and his new book, No-Compromise Leadership, is available at www.amazon.com. For a signed copy, go to www.strategies.com You can email Neil at neil@strategies.com