Most people it seems, want to avoid conflict. In fact, taking the path of least resistance is a law of nature. But that path of least resistance can also slide into avoidance behavior if you aren’t careful. Furthermore, it will keep you from creating a culture of ownership and coaching.
I work really hard to create a safe coaching environment where leaders can talk about their struggles knowing that it isn’t easy leading others. In fact, the most difficult ones to lead are the ones that zap a manager’s energy. But after years of coaching healthcare leaders, I can point a finger at one of the biggest, most common struggles among leaders. That is holding staff accountable for behaviors. It is so tempting to duck or avoid conflict – to tell yourself that you’ll get to it some other time or maybe even try to minimize the impact of negative staff behaviors. When leaders have the right skills and tools they can learn to overcome avoidance and build a strong culture of accountability.
One skill-building practice that I prescribe for overcoming avoidance and improving accountability is taking the time to prepare for a coaching discussion. Organize your thoughts and tie the discussion back to overarching goals, point out gaps and craft a plan for change. In our Coaching for Engagement workshop, we help people identify their own avoidance issues and help them to overcome it through preparation and practice.
There’s an art and a science to giving effective feedback to build accountability and it takes preparation. Here are just a few of the preparation steps I include in the workshop tools:
- Be clear about: what you want, what you are getting, and the gaps.
- Give current and pertinent examples (without dredging up baggage from the distant past).
- Keep the conversation “safe” through shared purpose and respect
Finally, it’s important to have face-to-face conversations whenever possible. It sends the message that the discussion is important. In today’s world, it’s easier to shoot off an email than it is to make time to meet and engage in a conversation. Face time not only allows you to ‘read’ the other person but to reinforce your message through body language.
Every time I do the workshop, I meet leaders who admit that they have been avoiding a difficult conversation. How about you? Is there a conversation you’ve been putting off because it’s uncomfortable? Remember – leaders don’t duck!