In this month's edition of my company's newsletter I talk about the fact that associates are your greatest asset.
I believe that. Associates represent you and your brand image to customers, vendors and the community. How they are treated by you often reflects how they treat others.
However, there are times when you need to have a challenging conversation with an associate. How you handle that conversation can mean the difference between, resolving the issue and moving forward or moving tocourt.
Before opening my own business I worked in the corporate environment for a variety of companies and had the opportunity to observe and experience first hand some of those challenging conversations.
And as a manager, one of my greatest tools was the ability to role play the discussion in advance with an impartial party.
I was reminded of this again recently when a friend of mine had a circumstance arise in her company with an associate that "torked her off."
She called and shared what had occurred and clearly was upset by her associate's behavior. In her monologue I was able to discern that the associate was valued. Her experience and dependability were just two of the many traits valued by my friend. But her current actions were unacceptable.
To make matters worse, this was the second time the associate had exhibited poor judgment.
As we talked, the emotion began to leave the conversation and we discussed concrete, factual issues that needed to be addressed. I reminded her of The One Minute Manager philosophy of sandwiching the challenging conversation between two positive statements.
We also talked about documentation and having a policy and procedure manual in writing and several other human resource issues, but here's my point:
The emotion was gone. She had a plan. She practiced her speech several times before saying goodbye.
The end result – an emotionless conversation with her valued associate who, in the end, thanked her boss for her understanding and apologized and assured her it wouldn't happen again.
What would have happened if my friend hadn't called me? And not that I had a magic wand – that's not the point – it was that she got all of her anger out at me, calmed down and then had the opportunity to practice and think through what she would say.
I highly recommend that before you have a difficult conversation with an associate = find someone you trust that you can discuss it with. Work through the angles. Practice out loud. This doesn't take the place of hiring an HR specialist or, if the situation calls for it, your attorney, but having a sounding board is a great addition to your team when dealing with an associate issue.
Deborah Chaddock Brown