The Absent Leader – Learning to Start Difficult Conversations

The Absent Leader – Learning to Start Difficult Conversations

The story to so far…. Ken has neglected his team. His MD is calling for a report on an important project, but Ken’s key staff member, Jane, has gone off sick. Maya, the HR manager, has told him it’s because he has failed to deal with Jane’s underperforming colleague, Miranda. He has to get this sorted out, and quickly.

Ken went back and looked at the staff appraisal notes. Just getting them out of his filing cabinet reminded him that he was about six months behind with doing the appraisals on his team. Truth was, he admitted to himself, he didn’t like doing them.

‘And why?’ he could almost hear Maya asking. ‘Don’t know enough about what your staff are doing?’

He pushed the uncomfortable thought away and looked for the section on giving feedback during appraisals.

‘Negative feedback should never be given for the first time at appraisal’ he read, ‘problems should be dealt with as they arise, not saved up for a review meeting.’

He slunk lower in his chair. Damn! Still, it had to be done now. He rifled through a few more pages.

‘If there are continuing difficulties with a member of staff, you need to take several steps to prepare for your meeting:

1. Gather information about their performance.
2. Compare this with expected performance.
3. Consider what might be affecting their performance – lack of skills, illness, lack of motivation, insufficient resources, etc.
4. Look back at your notes from previous discussions about the problem (’Notes?’ Ken muttered to himself ‘I’m supposed to keep notes?’)
5. Put together all the information you have and plan how to approach the subject.
6. Give the staff member one week’s notice of the appraisal meeting.

A week? A week? Ken’s blood pressure started to rise. That report was due in three days. His job could even be on the line, what about his mortgage, his expensive lifestyle, his kid’s private school?
But then reality kicked in and his blood pressure reduced. He wasn’t going to be doing an appraisal. Duh! It was a talk about poor performance.

Jim was starting on the project immediately -he’d offered him overtime to get it done – and then Ken could write the report himself. It could just work.

He called Miranda and told her he’d like to see her in an hour to talk about how the project could be done on time. That’d give her something to think about. Then he turned to his computer and googled ‘giving negative feedback.’ He was surprised how many websites offered advice. He liked the one on the dummies site. He sat back to read…

……………….. find out what he learns in our next blog…

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