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HireMyVA Podcast 152- Handling Tough Conversations with your Employees + Bloopers

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Episode Summary

It can be awful to have a difficult discussion with your team members.
To improve office life in general and make things more comfortable for your larger staff, you must know when to halt toxic conduct or subpar performance.
Now is the time to ignore your persistent fears and confront the issue head-on before it worsens.

The source for the "accountability dial" illustration about how to turn up the heat in the conversation, is from the book “Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting For” by Jonathan Raymond - https://amzn.to/3PEgk6s

Use the MICBL method:
- Mention
- Invitation
- Conversation
- Boundary
- Limit


“Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting For” by Jonathan Raymond - https://amzn.to/3PEgk6s

Episode to look back on -Episode 148: What do I look for in a Business Development Team and how do I hold them accountable? - https://youtu.be/3vPcT6YYUwg

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Learn more about Larry Broughton
Website: https://larrybroughton.me
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Learn more about Dave Braun
Website: https://prowebsitecreators.com/about
LinkedIn: https://bit.ly/3EpvoQe


Episode Transcription

Dave Braun
Hey, everyone. Welcome to the HireMyVA team and Business Building Podcast brought to you by Yoogozi.com and Victory. In this Podcast and at HireMyVA, we help you to reclaim your freedom through hiring and thriving with Virtual Assistants without breaking the bank. And of course, that means your bank. And as normal, I’m Dave Braun and I’m here with Larry Broughton and my partner in all things, coaching, fantastic business mentor, Larry you’re helping coach me through life, all these ups and downs. We’re like brothers and all the different things we’re doing, just tell everybody, Hey.

Larry Broughton
Hey, I’m still Larry. Hello, handsome, Dave, how are you?

Dave Braun
I’m doing fantastic.

Larry Broughton
Well, what a productive little meeting we just got done with, huh?

Dave Braun
We did. There are some exciting things going on.

Larry Broughton
I hate meetings, but boy, when they’re productive like that, it’s like nothing like it.

Dave Braun
Yeah. I think both of us going in when we were talking and we were both a little bit down, I think.

Larry Broughton
Yeah. Low energy?

Dave Braun
Little low energy and now I think we picked it up.

Dave Braun
Sometimes having a great meeting conversation with somebody who’s a great person is better than having a cup of coffee or some other kind of caffeinated drink, right?

Dave Braun
Yep. There you go. Well, we’ve got a really good question today.

Larry Broughton

Larry Broughton
You’re making me nervous when you do that. Okay, what is it? Bring it on, I guess. What is it?

Dave Braun
All right here it is. How do you have tough conversations with your employees?

Larry Broughton
Oh, you know what? It reminds me of what we talked about recently, but I’m gonna start with this, I’m gonna finish, I can see you’ve got something you wanna throw in here. This is one of my favorite topics about how I always say courage changes everything.

Larry Broughton
Right. I get it, my friends, it takes guts to have difficult conversations, whether it’s with a team member or an employee or a loved one, it takes guts. But just imagine your life had you had the courage to have those tough conversations in the past. How would your life be different today? So go ahead, Dave, I interrupted you. I stepped all over you, so what were you gonna say?

Larry Broughton
His feelings have been hurt. Suck it up buttercup.

Dave Braun
Okay. Well, one of the things in this question, people give in to us and they talk about employees. Well, what do we normally like to tell people that the word to replace that with is—

Larry Broughton
Team members.

Dave Braun
Team members. So let’s do that. So how do you have tough conversations with your team members? Now, Larry, you mentioned a great way to do this to one of our last episodes. And as normally on our episodes, we kind of riff back and forth and this wasn’t episode 148, and that one, we answered the question, what do I look for in a business development team and how do I hold them accountable? So it was all about this accountability question. And so you described this kind of along the lines of how do you crank up the heat in your conversations? I mean, how do you start cool and get it to like really hot. And there was a great analogy that you had where you envision this as say a knob on the stove where you can gradually increase the heat settings.

Dave Braun
And we were talking about it afterwards and we put the link of this book in the show notes for that episode. And it really is the illustrations and accountability dial, right? How do you turn up the heat in the conversation? So the book is good authority, how to become the leader your team is waiting for, and that’s by Jonathan Raymond. But I think it would be awesome if we went into a little bit more detail because when we were talking about that, it was just so important. It was a great step-by-step approach. And you know, I’m an engineer, I like step-by- step approaches, but I think it will help everybody. Right?

Larry Broughton
Well, first of all, I’m gonna mention this, that mention courage, courage changes everything for folks. I get that we’re almost programmed in life to avoid conflict sometimes. And so we get nervous if we’re gonna have a tough conversation. But as a reminder, first of all, let me just power through these really quickly, but I’m gonna encourage you to go back and listen to this part of the podcast. It’s probably the last third of the podcast whether 148. So imagine there’s the dial, there’s dimension, you got a team member who’s just not cutting it and you’re passing each other in the hall. It’s just a really short little comment. Hey Dave, I noticed the TPS reports aren’t getting on in time, you might wanna keep an eye on that. Then there’s the invitation where you say, Hey Dave, you’ve missed this several times.

Larry Broughton
I think there’s a pattern for me here. Are you recognizing the same pattern? The third phase of that dial, you turn up the heat is called the conversation. And this is like, when your spouse or significant other says, Hey, we need to have a talk. That’s the tone of this conversation, right? The next one is the boundary, right? That’s where it is, like you’re on medium-high at this point. And you have to say, Dave, if we don’t get these TPS reports in on time, and they’re not accurate, we’re gonna have to consider taking an additional step, whatever that is, written warning, suspension, whatever it is, the limit is the High, when you say, Hey, this is your final warning if this doesn’t happen, or if this continues to happen, we’re gonna make a significant change in the organization.

Larry Broughton
But I would say this, I get that if you don’t take these steps, you’re gonna be very nervous. If the first time you have a conversation, Dave was someone who’s just not cutting it. And you’re already at the boundary level, you’re gonna be fearful. How is this team member gonna respond? Because oftentimes we come into this thing a little bit defensive, knowing that we’ve not done our job as the leader. And so we get a little bit fearful about that, how they’re gonna respond. But if you start mentioning it early on and you’re documenting it along the way, then you have a lot of ground to stand on because the next thing is this, you gotta plan ahead for this. You gotta do your homework and you have to present the facts. It’s easy to present the facts when you say Dave, we’ve had this conversation here and here.

Larry Broughton
Here’s the proof that I’m seeing that here’s what’s happening. When your TPS reports don’t get done on time or accurately, it’s affecting the organization this way. And so by taking these steps that Raymond talks about in his book, which I apologize that I forgot where I saw this the first time, but we’re making it right now. But I really just love this analogy. So by having the mention, the invitation, the conversation, you are planning ahead. Now, even when it gets to the boundary part, even though the temperature is a little elevated from the mention, you can still remain positive. You can still have a positive and productive conversation with someone when you’re speaking to their potential and the potential of the organization. Just because they’re not meeting the mark, doesn’t give you permission or authority, or permission to be a jerk to the person or to defame them or speak ill of them. You can still be productive by saying, Hey, how are things going? How you feeling like things are going with the team.

Larry Broughton
I see so much potential in you, but this is kind of dragging you down. When we had hired you, or we brought you into the organization or we promoted you we saw this happening. I still believe that this can happen if we can hammer this out, you can still be positive. People want to hear good things, but you can still be firm and loving at the same time. You don’t have to be firm and be a jerk. And by being loving doesn’t mean that you’re being wishy-washy or soft or letting ’em off the hook. Once you have that part down, Dave, you listen to the team member, and what they have to say. And if they’re just silent, are they zip it? Are they getting defensive? This is an opportunity to call them out on it. You don’t just walk away and say, oh, that didn’t go well, this is an opportunity to say, listen, as a mature leader, I expect that you’re gonna communicate effectively

Larry Broughton
even during difficult times. Dave, this is not easy for me either to have this difficult conversation with you, but I’m still having it. I’m digging deep into my reservoir of courage to have this conversation with you. I need you to do the same thing. What’s on your mind? How are you feeling right now? What are your thoughts about this? Why do you think that you’re not being productive in this area? And then listen, don’t let them just, I don’t like that you talk to me this way and they cross their arms and pout. This is the kind to bring them out of their shell. I’m just trying to go through the process. I’m thinking about when I’ve had to do this in our organization. When you get up here to this conversation portion, it’s time to really develop a what we call a PIP, a performance improvement plan.

Larry Broughton
Will you write up the plan and how you’re gonna improve over the next 30, 60, or 90 days? And then within reason, you have to leave your emotions at the door on this. Now you can be empathetic. So if they say, listen, my spouse just died. I always go back to the Steven Covey conversation about where, on the train, you guys have heard this before. This guy was letting his kids just go crazy on the train in New York and being very disruptive and Covey called out the father. And the father said, oh yeah, their mother just died, I’m sorry. If somebody says something like that, then yes, you have to be empathetic with them. But this is not a time for you to be crying in front of your team member. Because you are scared or you are nervous, you still need to have some intestinal fortitude and address this or try to leave your emotions at the door.

Larry Broughton
Dave, one of the things I see a lot of leaders, a mistake that they make, and I’m sorry, I’m just trying to get this stuff downloaded. You have to do this in the right setting. You don’t do this in the open bullpen in front of a bunch of other team members, right? This is the second time this guy’s name has come up in 24 hours. So this is very interesting. Tony Shay, the former CEO of Zappos. I had the honor of meeting him several times and then interviewing him for a former company that I had called tools for success. I’d interviewed him a couple of times and did a tour of their facility. And they had, I think, everything he had his office in an open bullpen, all open bullpens.

Larry Broughton
They had no offices. I think they had two offices, one where counseling sessions happened and one where they were to meet with their professional coach. Other than that, everybody met out in the open. So you don’t criticize in public, you praise in public. You give critique in private. Unless it’s kind of on the spot safety steps going on, but you don’t have these kinds of talks in public. So make sure you’ve got the right setting. When you get to this conversation, stage conversation, boundary, and limit stage, Dave, have a witness there. Don’t do this by yourself. And this should not be a subordinate of theirs. Hopefully, somebody that’s in some kind of HR position, if possible. Now I know that probably 80% of the people who watch this they’re solo entrepreneurs. Have somebody there though with you. And then document these conversations, document the performance improvement plan, but make sure and document it. Even if it’s sitting there and just writing yourself an email and sending it to you, it can be as simple as that. But if you’re more formal and you have personnel jackets, then write it up, whatever your policy is in your organization. If you have more—

Dave Braun
I was gonna say one of those things let’s keep going on the setting. So when you’re talking about it virtually, you can have it, it’s easy to do it from a private perspective. But when you say have someone there, should you have another person on that call?

Larry Broughton
I would.

Larry Broughton
Yeah, absolutely. The good thing is if you do it like you and I record our podcast on zoom, you can record the podcast. I would still have someone there because it’s also another form of accountability that the person just knows that you’re talking. And again, that person’s not sitting there and just watching, hopefully, someone who’s also impacted in the organization who can offer value and you need to make sure that you tour on the same. This is not a time to play Good cop, bad cop.

Larry Broughton
You don’t do that. But in a Virtual setting, yes. Particularly if you’ve got Virtual people like overseas, then I would just use Zoom or whatever it is. But I would make sure a lot of these folks do these sessions from home. Now I had to have a difficult conversation with someone about a month ago. And all of a sudden, I could say, her manner is so strange, she didn’t have headphones on. And I didn’t even think anything about it. All of a sudden she typed in a chat and started pointing, I can’t have this conversation. My daughter’s here.

Larry Broughton
And my heart sunk. It’s like why didn’t I ask this beforehand? Are you alone? So what I should have done when I set up the meeting said, should have said, Hey, can we have a private conversation? But I dunno if you notice, I’m always wearing headphones because my daughter can come in or out, or whatever it is. So that was a good question though, Dave, but what I was going to say after documenting the comp— was there something else?

Dave Braun
No, I was gonna say, so you’re in the right setting, right? So private—

Larry Broughton
Right setting. Have a witness

Dave Braun
Possible, documenting the outcome.

Larry Broughton
Then you’ve gotta be consistent in the way that you deliver disciplinary actions in your organization. You don’t treat everybody the same, but you treat everybody fairly. You have the same performance standards for everyone. So this takes a little bit of discernment. If you’re saying, Hey, satisfactory distribution of your—to hit a satisfactory distribution of your TPS reports, they gotta be 89% accurate and delivered a hundred percent of the time. That needs to be for everybody. You can’t expect that from this team member and 60% from the other team member. So you have to be consistent and have these difficult conversations. And I’m almost done. Two things I think to follow up here, one is the follow up. You can’t have this conversation and then that’s the last you hear of it.

Larry Broughton
And then you fire them afterward. If you set up this PIP, the performance improvement plan, you stand there, Hey, we’re gonna follow up every two weeks. We’re gonna sit down again. We’re gonna have a quick conversation or every 30 days, whatever it is, and you give them goals to reach and you tell them, Hey, you’re falling short or you’re improving. It should never be a secret. It should never be a surprise when you let someone go from your organization. Okay. And then then finally is this. You need to keep this confidential. I should not have a conversation with you, Dave, about your performance. And then go tell everyone else in the organization. Guess what? I just gave Dave a disciplinary session or coaching session. You don’t do that and you tell them, Hey, this is between us. I’m gonna keep this confidential. Just like you don’t know when I go talk to other team members about their performance, I’m not gonna be telling them that you and I are talking. Let’s make it a surprise to them that you show up. And all of a sudden these TPS reports are getting done on time. Wouldn’t that be a great surprise?
So that’s kind of just riffing on this, but I think that’s how you have a tough conversation with somebody. Start with the accountability dial and fill it in with this kind of whatever it was 10 or 12 other things in between.

Dave Braun
So even if you are, you think again about the accountability dial, even if you’re at the point where you’re almost like at your limit, you’re ready to fire the person, let them go, don’t, you’re suggesting go back to dimension, start at the beginning. Even if you are ready to say no.

Larry Broughton
No, I wouldn’t say that. I guess, it’s like anything in leadership, there’s gray areas and so I would say, well, it depends.

Larry Broughton
It just depends. Have you had conversations in the past? I’m not saying going back and being easy breezy. I think that if I were at my wit’s end and I’m like ready to do the boundary or the limit, I would have a conversation. Let’s just say, it’s you Dave, I would say, man, we need to have a tough conversation. I, as the leader, should have had these conversations earlier, but this has been bugging me and other team members for a while. And I would have specific examples of it. I should have been communicating with you, but I’ve not been. And so because of that, together, we need to develop a plan so that we can nip this in the bud change, correction, change course, whatever it is, the plan is here now, and quickly, I’m gonna give you my word, Dave, moving forward, when there’s a performance deficiency, I’m gonna mention this to you as soon as I start recognizing it.

Larry Broughton
Because right now I’m feeling resentful. And just being honest with you, man, I’m feeling resentful. And my expectation when I give you a project, honestly, I don’t know that you’re ever gonna hit the goal because you’re so inconsistent in these other areas. But I know that you’ve got the potential to do it here of all the other successes you had in your career, and the time you had with us. But for some reason, this isn’t working and I’m gonna apologize to you that I’m being so heavy right now, but this is serious. And we need to fix this. I know you can do it, particularly if we develop a plan together right now. So I would kind of have that tone about it, but I wouldn’t just walk in and easy breezy about it. But this is why you have to be consistent as a leader, is that if people know that your brand standard is excellence, not perfection, but excellence in everything that you do. Then every day you’re saying, Hey, we’re falling short a little bit here. It’s just a mention, we can do better than this team, come on, we can do this. Does that make sense?

Dave Braun
Yeah. Totally makes sense. So, really start where you need to start.

Larry Broughton
Start where you need to start. Now, if it has gotten to the point— Now, in most places in the US, it’s they’re at-will employees and so you need to know, are these at-will employees, are they 10/ 99 Virtual Assistants located here? Or are they just, you know, Virtual assistance overseas? If it is the point where you are losing clients and you need to make the tough decision, right? I’m gonna tell you this, got a coaching client, that I was on the call with this morning, who two weeks ago, when we had our call, she was ready to let this person go. We asked a few questions, have she, has she really been trained properly? Does she really know what your expectations are? Because people can’t meet your expectations if they don’t know what they are. Because remember, and I always quote this folks though.

Larry Broughton
So bear with me. 67% of the American workforce is disengaged or actively disengaged. And when you peel back the reasons why the number one reason is people don’t feel like they’re being trained or professionally developed by their supervisors or their managers. Right? And so she’d been thinking about this over the last two weeks. And so she, I said, all right, what’s our number one topic we’re talking about today. And so she said the person’s name. She goes, I’ve been thinking about this. And here’s where I fell short. She’s so good in these other areas. My concern is if I let her go without doing X, Y, and Z first, then I may be making the same mistake the next time around. And it’s gonna cost me more money than for me to send this team member to this training, this specific training, that’s gonna help those them in this area where I’m feeling frustrated.

Larry Broughton
So the training costs a thousand dollars over a seven-week period. So maybe it makes more sense for me to put them through this training period and then set what my expectations are than taking the risk of the turnover. Because, keep in mind how costly it is for turnover, it’s a lot more than a thousand dollars for most people. So she reflected on it. So she’s starting where she needs to start. So you don’t have the ideal is Mention, Invitation, Conversation, Boundary Limit, that’s the ideal. But start where you need to start, but go back and take responsibility for your own action. I think there are a lot of people, Dave, who would respect a leader who says, Hey, I should have done this. I have fallen short and I’m gonna do better in the future. That if you can say, as a leader, I can do better. What’s that telling your team members? I’m not perfect. I don’t expect you to be perfect, but I expect you to be better than you are today.

Dave Braun
Yeah. It really opens up. It really opens it up for a good conversation too when you admit that you’ve fallen short.

Dave Braun
Okay. Well, that sounds that, that sounds pretty cool. As you were talking, I was drawing some of this down to get it more in my head and I encourage people to do that. I’m not sharing my screen, but memorize, Larry talked about the dial, mention, invitation, conversation, boundary, and limit. And it might help for you guys if you are doing this, if you’re listening to this, think about a team member that you’ve got, who may be falling a little bit short of your expectations, where would you start? How would you have that conversation? And then I would encourage you to go back and start with some of Larry’s words. Those are some great introductory words that you had. I really liked it.

Larry Broughton
Yeah. Well, it’s very easy to do this if it’s a new team member because you don’t have a history with them yet. But I like your comment, Dave, about start where you need to start.

Dave Braun
Yeah. Okay. All right, any other final words on this? I mean, I like how you started out with courage, it takes courage.

Larry Broughton
It does take courage to do this.

Dave Braun
And the other key thing you said at the beginning was, I guess imagine two things. One is, if you let this go, what’s gonna happen in the future? But imagine if you have this conversation and it goes well, which a lot of times it does, right?

Dave Braun
A lot of times it does imagine what’s gonna happen as a result in the future.

Larry Broughton
So many surveys have been done on team member satisfaction with their leaders. So many surveys have been done on this. What they show is team members want feedback from their managers and leaders, they wanna know how they’re doing. They don’t like living under this question mark. Am I doing well? Am I not doing well? Am I in good standing or bad standing? They wanna hear from you. People generally, most people want to be good performers most of the time.

Larry Broughton
Inspite of the big quit in spite of the great resignation or the quiet quit or whatever it is that we’re calling it right now. I think most people wanna do good most of the time. And so it’s our job to fill them in on how they’re doing.

Dave Braun
And especially if you’re gonna follow the directions that we have when you are hiring people. Motivation, integrity, and capacity, you do all those and do those well, and the people that you’re gonna have work with you, they’re gonna wanna improve and they’re gonna appreciate the conversation I think.

Larry Broughton

Dave Braun
Okay. Anything else?

Larry Broughton
Nope. I think that’s it.

Dave Braun
All right. That is awesome. So everybody, thank you for joining us today. And remember, building a team is the way to reclaim your freedom and we’re here to help you with our Course and Community and our White Glove service, where we find a Rockstar VA for you. So three things we’d love for you to do, and we’d really appreciate it. Number one, subscribe to the podcast, if you haven’t already done so either on your iPhone or your Android phone and then on YouTube by hitting the subscribe button and click on the little bell next to it to get reminders. And then number two, give us a rating, preferably five stars, or leave a comment below this video. Any comment because it will help us to get the word out and we do respond and we will answer your questions. And then number three, go to Hiremyva.com for more information on our Course and Community and our White Glove service. Remember, even without experience, you learn how to prepare for hire and thrive with Virtual assistants. Larry and I have helped lots of folks, we want to help you, we’re helping people right now. It’s a lot of fun. So just go to Hiremyva.com for more information.

Larry Broughton
Yeah. And I would just remind folks. Courage changes everything. And this one of my little mantras came to mind, I’m just gonna remind folks of this. You can’t light a fire with a wet match. You have to be an enthusiastic leader. You have to be engaged with your team. So I’ll leave you with that. God bless you. God keep you. God hold you. All right, my friends. We’ll see you next time. Have a great day. Go get them.

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