June 12, 2009 Chris Fuller

Confronting wrong beliefs and behaviors

Dogs don’t know what they did wrong yesterday!

As Leaders we must be vigilant about our culture and when changes are needed or confrontation over beliefs or behaviors needs to occur – they need to occur as close to the behavior as possible – this is not a once a year employee review type thing.

Most people have difficulty when it comes to confrontations. When it comes to confronting beliefs it can seem even more so. They refuse to confront something immediately and allow it to build and fester until it or they blow up. They use anger as a method for emotional strength to deal with something that should have been dealt with all through the year and not just at the review. (As you can tell – I’m not a fan of the yearly review)

Without discussing the pro’s and con’s of social plurality, let me just say when it comes to business teams – we can’t have 16 dogs pulling in 16 different directions – or even 2. We need everyone pulling in one direction – one purpose, one goal, one team.

To that end (our ‘Burled Arch’) we are going to need to solidify a unified, positive and purposeful culture (again – beliefs and behaviors). To gain this focus – it’s just a fact that not every belief and behavior is going to line up and that we’re going to need to discuss this with the individual team member(s).

So how do we do it:

  1. Understand the specifics of where we believe they are off the trail.
  2. Take the mindset that most people have honest intentions
  3. Ask them to talk about their lens (belief/perspective) on that particular issue.
  4. Help them back on the trail

When you seek first to be very specific about the issues, to get their perspective and to give people the benefit of the doubt – it helps keep the confrontation on topic. Many people view correction or confrontation as an assault or a rejection of them as a person. This immediately backs that team member into a corner and we can all see the picture of a cornered dog, right? For self preservation they will almost always come out fight for self preservation.

For years I’ve taught on using the ‘sandwich method’ for confrontation – where you affirm the person (bread), deal with the issue (meat), affirm the person, their contribution / value (bread) and set points of accountability and clarity around future behavior.

For most team members – your sharing your lens and the desired lens of the future will be enough will be enough for them to see a different perspective and start the change process. If a team member continues to engage in divisive behaviors or continues to hold onto beliefs that are contrary to the team and harmful to progress then we’ll need to increase the intensity and frequency of the confrontation. If it comes to it – you may even, ultimately, recommend that they run for a different team and that’s ok too – not our first choice – but we have to value the mission, we have to value the other players on the team – and we have to guard the culture!

Shorter post for today – leaving time for your Friday comments – have a great day and weekend!

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