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Sometimes All It Takes Is A Word

One of my employees asked me if coaching new managers ever gets old. While I do get frustrated from time-to-time it never, ever gets old. Fresh eyes, new perspective, and the possibility to help someone become a better leader: That's why I enjoy it so much. This topic coaching topic comes up all the time and is one of my favorites.


“Have you talked to them?” is probably the line I’ve said the most during my time in management. This might come as a newsflash to some of you, but it seems as if most people would rather be upset than talk out an issue with someone. Weird, right? Here are some of my favorite examples:

“My supervisor hates me.”

“Mike is constantly undermining my work.”

“Time for another meeting where Alice drones on and on.”

“Steve and Sarah are always having loud conversations around my desk.”

I haven’t always spoken up whenever there has been some miscommunication in the work center. It wasn’t that I shied away from confrontation, but I guess I didn’t want anyone to think I was being petty or thin-skinned. It wasn’t until I became a manager that my worldview changed.

Let’s try the quotes above with some additional words and see if you can figure out why my perspective changed.

“My car is in the shop. I need to come in 15 minutes late tomorrow so I can pick it up, but I’m afraid to ask because my supervisor hates me.”

“I spent two weeks working on that project and asked Mike for advice a couple times. He gave me some outdated numbers. Turns out the office manager was late turning in the report to the region because Mike is constantly undermining my work.”

“Ugh, this is the third huddle on TPS reports this month. Time for another meeting where Alice drones on and on. We’re wasting time on TPS reports when we could be doing our actual job.”

“The boss called me into his office yesterday. One of my customers was upset because they thought I was unprofessional. They thought I was listening to talk radio at a loud level when I was on the phone with them yesterday. I don’t even have a radio. It’s because Steve and Sarah are always having loud conversations around my desk.”

I think you can see why this isn’t acceptable, right? Any signs of a high-functioning team? No. Wasted resources? Yep. Not acceptable...not at all.

The process to stop this type of behavior isn’t difficult, but it does take practice. It’s a simple concept: address the issue, not the person. You have to coach your staff on what to say and how to say it.

"Speak with Mike alone and let him know he needs to provide you with current numbers when you ask for them. When he counters that he “thought they were good”, explain he needs to make sure next time. The next time you get numbers from him be sure to thank him."

"Talk to Alice privately and let her know how her meetings are affecting you and your workload. I'm sure you two can figure out a solution."

"Politely let Steve and Sarah know their conversations are affecting your ability to do your job. They'll get the hint."

"Your boss doesn't hate you. Go talk with them and let them know how it feels to work for them. See what they say."

Let them know to follow up with you after they have the conversation and ask them to keep you updated.

That’s it. Let them know if saying nothing isn't working it's on you to say something and see what happens. As long as you address the issue and how it affects you, there's a good possibility things will begin to improve.

Poor communication makes for a terrible work environment that has a direct result on your team’s productivity. If you're the leader and you see this type of behavior in your teams it means you're allowing it. Step up and coach your team. It's the most important part of your job.



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