During my Speaking Engagements and Trainings for organizations, I often share with leaders how to have the tough conversations with your people or teams; because when you’re not willing to… I guarantee you won’t be leading for long. However, they’re two sides to every coin; what’s the best way to receive the tough conversation? The truth is, whether you’re the CEO, a Supervisor, or Front-Line Employee… no one is exempt from getting the tough conversation for mistakes made, that the mistake cannot continue, and hopefully the best ways to avoid it in the future. Front-Line Employees may receive this butt-kicking from supervisors, while supervisors receive it from their bosses, and CEOs may have a Board to answer to! So, how do you best take a butt-kicking when you thought you were right… or knew you were wrong?
I must preface, I refer to a professional butt-kicking as being confronted by a leader about a mistake you made that may involve a conversation and/or professional consequence such as a tough and questioning conversation, a write-up, suspension, etc. I’m never suggesting abuse, verbal and obviously physical, are ever warranted or to be tolerated!
With that said, I can clearly remember my three biggest professional butt-kickings. The first was my senior year of college as a football player. It was Summer Camp and we were in the middle of two-a-days… and sometimes three-a-days. Practices were over for the day and I was headed to the final meeting of the evening. It started at 8:00pm. My watch said 8:00; however my coach’s watch must have said 8:01. I entered the room with everyone already present and him addressing the team. Upon entering and the only one standing… this man lit into me like I’ve never been talked to before and kicked me out of the meeting! I still don’t have a word to describe what I was feeling at the moment. All I know is, I’ve been 15 minutes early to everywhere and everything since 1998, Lol!
My second Butt-Kicking came in my first job after college. I worked in a Residential Mental Health Treatment Facility and was scheduled to attend a court hearing for a Resident. I entered work upbeat and ready for the workday like any other day and my boss asked me what I was doing. Apparrently, I was supposed to be at court! I completely missed it and had no real reason as to why… it simply slipped my mind. The next day I came to work and checked my schedule, it was the dreaded 1:00pm – 11:00pm shift for seven days straight! I saw it, looked at my supervisor, he looked at me, we both nodded, and all was understood.
My last butt-kicking came as I was burning out of a job. I thought I’d retire from that job, but fell out of love with the organization, the changes, leadership, and everything that came with it… and it showed! I was more disconnected, vented inappropriately, and was severely behind on my paperwork. When my boss and his boss addressed this with me… I said and did some of the things I’m about to share with you… and have learned a few other nuggets along the way. So here they are:
A Leader’s Listen!
Hearing is sense… Listening is a choice! Of course, you want your boss or co-workers to deliver a tough conversation to you in a perfect way; the way you prefer to hear it and wrapped in a pretty bow that won’t hurt your feelings… or to never say anything to you at all! I train leaders in organizations all around the world on how to initiate the conversation, using your top two Languages from my Leader’s 7 and more. The truth is… more people haven’t received my training than have; and even those that have may have a bad day… and YOU may be in the midst of having your worst day ever when a butt-kicking comes knocking!
The first thing to do is realize most bosses would prefer not to have this conversation with you! Most likely they didn’t wake up wanting to ruin your day, may be more anxious than you to have the conversation, and honestly would prefer the job was done correctly so they can focus on the other 15 million things that need their attention. So, whether you thought you were right or knew you were wrong… be mindful of your face, your posture, and be open to learning something new when the Butt-Kicking comes knocking.
There are some leaders and employees that are beyond being told they’re wrong, or that there’s a better way, or a company’s way of doing a task. As an employee, Be mindful to make eye contact, but not the glaring “I’m going to flatten your tires in the parking lot stare”. Nod your head affirming this is a serious conversation you are interested in partaking in. Be mindful of your posture. It may be easy to close off as you look down, away, continuing to work as they’re talking, cross your arms, tapping your foot, legs shaking, etc. Instead, keep a comfortable Covid-Distance, stand at a 45-degree angle and with your hands comfortable at your side or in your pockets. If you’re sitting; be mindful to sit up straight instead of slouching and disappearing into your seat.
Lastly, be open to learning something… anything… from the conversation! Some people are all guns blazing because someone or anyone in this world had the audacity to confront them about their mistakes, behaviors, or observed patterns. Anyone can be a leader… no matter your position in the company or team and leaders see confrontation as an opportunity… to learn, grow, and evolve. What can you learn from this conversation, what did you learn from the conversation, what will you apply to ensure you become an asset and not a liability? These are simple things and are a start to you engaging as a leader and working through an issue!
A Leader’s Validity
This is short, sweet, and important! What are they right about?
My coach was right about me being late. My boss was right about me missing the court date. My boss was right about me being behind majorly in my paperwork and becoming a cog in the system due to my disconnectedness and negativity. It doesn’t mean your boss’s tactics of handling the conversation were the best or something you must tolerate… only you can decide that. The point is to first seek validity of what they are right about and accept full responsibility for it. This leads us to the next step!
A Leader’s Coaching
Often is the case, your boss may be right; however, you may be right too! Therefore, it’s not about right… it’s about evolution. How we evolve a conversation and allow for opportunity? The truth is, sometimes you have to make your leaders lead you and make your coaches coach you. Get over the “Shoulds” of my supervisor should know the answer, they should know how to do… , they should…. Why, because they make a little bit more money than you and have a title? Please remember unfortunately how many people get promoted… because they did one thing really well or outlasted a bunch of other people… not because they knew how to lead. Therefore, lead the opportunity by helping them to lead you!
When it was brought to my attention my paperwork was behind and my attitude had changed; the truth was I was behind because every time I left my office to get lunch, go to the copy machine, or simply to take my routine rounds around the building I ended up assisting in ten restraints. I struggled with changes in leadership as the company brought in someone that was incompetent to the job and created numerous safety risks for clients and staff, the organization accepted anyone and everyone into the facility our staff was not prepared for, and I can go on. The trick is to select an issue you actually have control over, present a suggested solution, and ask for help. For me it was… “You are absolutely right. I’m drowning in my paperwork and I wish I would have come to you before you had to come to me. It’s on me and I thought I could catch up. The truth is, years ago I was able to bring work home to stay afloat. My kids are older now and my time after work is different and I’m not able or willing to do work in the evening after my kids go to bed. It’s also difficult to catch up here as we are struggling crisis-wise regarding the new clients we’re accepting and the current staff we have. I can’t leave my office or have a meeting without crises pulling me away, and at this point, I’m not sure what to do or how to prioritize it all. I have two ideas: get my paperwork done right after sessions and also create a paperwork time scheduled in my daily calendar… what do you think about that and is there anything you’d fine-tune?”.
Their response was something I didn’t expect… they listened and then offered two weeks at headquarters to fully catch up. Although the bigger and long-term issues didn’t disappear I was heard, was able to stop drowning, and brought attention to leadership about the bigger picture. After listening, and seeking validity, you may have to make your leaders lead you by sharing your list, sharing an idea, asking for fine-tuning, and seeing what happens. You’ll learn a lot from their response… for better or worse!
A Leader’s Thank You!
Leaders close conversations… especially the difficult ones by thanking the other person for having it with them! “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’m sure you have a ton of things to do and I want to be great here, so I appreciate getting better from this. This will no longer be an issue on my part and I’ll take care of it”. Make this Thank You Statement your own… as long as you mean it! Thank the person you’re giving the Butt-Kicking to for taking it… and… Thank the person providing the Butt-Kicking for caring enough about you, the team, or the company to give it. I can still hear my college coach yelling my name every 10 minutes at every practice. It got to the point I went to speak with him and asked, “Why are you on me so tough?”. I’ll never forget his response, “The day I stop yelling at you, is the day you need to start worrying”. Wow, for him… the day he stopped yelling was the day he didn’t believe you could get any better and it no longer mattered. I still talk to him and Thank him to this day!
Remember, no one is exempt from a professional butt-kicking… from a boss, an employee, a customer. When it’s your turn… be sure your face and posture are right, seek validity; what are they right about, help them to lead you, and as hard as it may be… thank them for an opportunity to evolve; as they would prefer everything to be going smoothly and not to be having this conversation with you in the first place!
“Thank the person you’re giving the Butt-Kicking to for taking it… and… Thank the person providing the Butt-Kicking for caring enough about you,the team, or the company to give it.” – Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
You’re a busy leader that cares about your people; the level of change they’re experiencing, their burn-out, and need for leadership training and work/life harmony skills but not sure where to turn or who to bring in… Look no further, click www.youevolvingnow.com for customizable speaking engagements and leadership trainings with Professional speaker, author, and leadership trainer, Andre Young!!! (In-Person, Virtual, or Online)