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Serious about your working relationships?

06 Jun 2018
Paul Fox

Ahead of his talk at UK Construction Week - Raising Our Game in the Science of Team Chemistry - Paul Fox, Founder of Constructive Coaching, explains why teams that hold each other to account are the most humane and rewarding to be a part of.

Avoiding a sticky conversation, not intervening when a team member is struggling or, failing to tackle behaviour that is damaging the team has an expanding impact. Leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the whole, which means that some people will become vexed at your actions and decisions. It's inevitable, if you're honourable.

People know when they are struggling or failing and they'll know that you know that too. That's a pretty horrible place for two people to be.

Nonetheless, people do struggle on, often desperate for their boss or team to intervene. Pride, embarrassment and fear get in the way of surfacing our internal wrestling.

Like a surgeon removing a growth - decisiveness, action and long-term welfare to the group organism is paramount.

Having the Sticky Conversation
Prepare people for what you have to say. When your team gets in the habit of stepping over nothing they will inevitably find that they will have some difficult, awkward, perhaps even painful or embarrassing conversations. (As a marker, as a high performing team, if you are not having at least some tricky conversations you are missing something or avoiding issues).

While there is no easy way to say or hear these things, you can make it easier for your team mates by conditioning it first. This is very simple. Just say it as it is. For example, suppose you need to have a discussion with your team mate about performance that is likely to let themselves or the team down:

"John, what I want to talk about isn't easy for me to say, and may be difficult for you to hear. (Pause.) Your work has been below standard for the past four weeks (The client has mentioned it). Can you help me to understand what is going on?"

The point is not to sugar coat what you say, but to enable you to say exactly what you need to say in a way that the other person can hear and understand it. Clear performance communication works best when you:

Agree as a team you will hold each other accountable for team standards and behaviours that are acceptable and unacceptable. Agree beforehand that we are going to let each other know how we are doing.

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The first half of the communication
Tell people immediately. Refuse to avoid talking about tough issues. Separate their behaviour from them as a person. Talk factually about the behaviour - not in judgements about their character.

Tell people what they did which was not effective - be specific.

Stop for a few seconds to let them absorb the information.

Tell people what you want precisely so that they can see clearly what effective performance would look like whilst reinstating team standards and boundaries. (This means agreeing specific, measurable and time bound objectives).

Make it clear what the consequences are for failure to achieve the objectives (for them, the team, the company - sometimes people just don't see the connection and therefore not the problem).

Be open and sincere towards them as a person, in a way that lets them know you are honestly on their side. (Make sure you can authentically do that)

The second half of the communication
Remind them how much you value them. Be specific in their qualities and attitudes.

Reaffirm that you think well of them but not their performance or behaviour in this situation.

Realise that when the reprimand/conversation is over, it is over. Re-create your positive expectations of them.

Paul will further discuss how to surface and master 'productive conflict’ at UK Construction Week on Tuesday 09 October. Register now for your FREE ticket.

PAUL COX BIOFor two decades Paul has been at the forefront of the Construction Industry's drive for collaboration, productivity, effectiveness and the value of a diverse Team. He pioneered the introduction of Performance Coaching and developed a reputation for getting clients results; real results like profit gains, framework success and holistic results like increased personal satisfaction (a key component of sector focus on wellbeing).

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