Continuing the theme of my previous blog, isn’t the optimal way the one where ‘people friendly’ and ‘performance oriented’ are not mutually exclusive? One of the biggest challenges of contemporary working life is having those ‘difficult conversations’ with others. We all know how essential it is to be able to do this. ‘Systems thinking’ tells us that in modern workplaces, everything is connected to everything else. So if we can’t have those difficult conversations with people early enough, other things will deteriorate. If we leave it long enough, things will often NOT just sort themselves out. Small, seemingly insignificant (and seemingly unconnected) events, incidents, actions and NON-actions always have ripple effects that generate wider consequences; so the manager who thinks bigger knows it is important to take action and get things sorted. Also, these same seemingly insignificant and seemingly unconnected events and non-events are often indications of bigger patterns at play–patterns that need to be modified before they seriously damage the bottom line.
How organisations facilitate or endorse staff to have these ‘difficult conversations’ has wide implications for morale and engagement, recruitment and retention, service and performance and therefore, the bottom line. The best organisations have realised that a culture of frankness and openness, from top to bottom, encourages good performance and staff satisfaction, and they provide continual training and development opportunities for staff who struggle with how to do this. Unfortunately, people in managerial positions all too often lack the capability to have those difficult conversations. In many organisational cultures, the politics of popularity can be confusing for managers. However, if they saw the big picture, they would know that being able to name poor work performance for what it is will help the whole business.
Being effective in the workplace requires the kind of ‘big picture’ thinking that tells us we need to be pro-active, not reactive, in order to maintain balance or equilibrium. Good managers do have the ‘difficult conversations’ with others and still maintain positive working relationships. The reluctance to do this for some folks comes from the fear that the working relationship will be damaged if they give ‘negative’ feedback. Thinking bigger about this reminds us that we are not the only ones in the picture. Relationships are a two-way deal and EVERYONE has an investment in maintaining good relationships at work. After all, “the quality of an outcome is directly related to the quality of the relationship between the people who are creating that outcome”.