The Absent Leader – Preparing a Difficult Conversation

The Absent Leader – Preparing a Difficult Conversation

The story so far…. Ken was in trouble, he had to get an urgent report to his MD in three days and had lost his key member of staff, Jane. He’d assigned someone to stand in for her, but needed to speak to Miranda, Jane’s under-performing colleague and get her back on track.

Ken started reading the advice on how to giving constructive feedback. What he really wanted was to give that Miranda a kick up the rear, but he knew that would get him fired for sure. He had to get this right. He read:

Be direct, specific, and issue-focused. Base the conversation on facts.
He’d already got the information about her terrible output from the work records. How the hell had he let it get so bad? Okay, so he could say, ‘I’ve noticed that your output is very low, 40% below what is expected.’ That would be a good start, very specific and she couldn’t argue with it. Could she?

Express Concern
He was concerned all right! Okay, deep breath. He could say, ‘I’m very concerned about this. The Freedman’s project is way behind schedule and the MD wants a report by Friday.’ Yup! That sounded calm and to the point.

Trouble is, the site got a bit vague about what to do after that. He turned to his appraisal instructions. Ah, should have looked there in the first place, he thought.

Ask why there is low performance
Well, he knew that, didn’t he? Long lunches, bidding on eBay, and goodness knows what else. But he guessed that Maya could be right, there might be a reason behind her bad behaviour. A simple ‘Can you tell me what’s been causing this?’ should be enough.

Set realistic goals for future performance
She’d have to work 30 hours a day to catch up with the backlog, and that wasn’t about to happen. He grabbed a pen and worked out what she should be able to achieve if she worked effectively. That would give them a good basis to work from.

Agree follow up dates
Good point, he needed to make sure she was doing what was agreed. With the project so late, he decided he’d need to see her each day for the first week to see how she was getting on. After that, he hoped he could back off a bit.

………………. find out how the conversation goes in our next blog

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