with greg layton

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“All great Chiefs have learned how to have difficult conversations and give feedback properly and they do this regularly.”

G’day Chiefs

In today’s minisode I am going to go through the five mistakes leaders make when having hard performance conversations.

Now, in my role as a coach over the years, I've had to deliver a lot of hard feedback, always done with real trust and rapport, always done with the individual's best interests at heart, always trying to find a way to help that individual, that leader, that executive, that athlete, find within them the truth and the answers. So to start with an overarching mindset, before I talk about the common five mistakes, I want you to view hard performance conversations as an opportunity to seek truth, to seek wisdom together. The more we make this egoic difficult short-term about the now, the more trouble we can fall into.

Preparation is key

So the first mistake so many leaders make when it comes to giving hard feedback is they simply do not prepare well enough. Now, a little bit of prep before a difficult conversation can go a long way. Now, the simple thing is to prepare for it. If you need data, if there is metrics, numbers, results, have that really handy. Have all of it. Don't let it be something that can be debated within the meeting. Draw upon the truth if you've got it, to have the data and the metrics.

Two, if there's been some conflict in the group, make sure you have all the different versions of any story of what's going on. Go and speak to people, seek to draw that out of them so that when you're in the meeting, you've got all that data in your head, you know it's accurate, at least accurate from the perspective of each of the people that have been involved, such that when you're in that meeting, you can draw upon all that information. 

Fixed v Growth Mindset

Number two, always go in with a growth mindset. The mistake, of course, is going in with a fixed mindset. What a fixed mindset means is that when you think about this individual, the paradigm you carry is one that they have gone as far as they can, that they can no longer grow, not even 1%. And chiefs, if you go in with that paradigm, the other will feel it. They will know. They will know that you have boxed them, stopped them, and there is nothing more for them.

And also it means when you see someone like that, what it means in your brain is you are not accessing the ideas, the thoughts, the questions, the coaching that will help them get a little bit better. So you must go in with a growth mindset. You must believe that this person can be better.

Map out a framework

The third mistake that so many leaders make is that they don't follow a process. Now, you've all heard me speak about this throughout the history of The Inner Chief. Know the methodology, know the framework you're following because that will help guide you through from one step to the next quite sequentially, so that when you get to all the important parts, you are ticking that box really nicely.

For example, in the framework that we teach on the Chief Maker MiniMBA, and the thing I'm going to tell you about in a minute, you can download, the first step is to seek understanding, seek that deep understanding. And if you skip that step, then very, very often things can go horribly wrong.

Whatever your process is, chief, make sure you know it and make sure you follow it, because as you're going through the meeting, you can tick off the steps, be comfortable that you know what's coming next. Of course, we always speak about freedom in a framework. If things change along the way, I totally get it. Follow your instinct, follow your gut, but use that process as your guide for when things get tricky.

Use two ears and one mouth in proportion

The fourth mistake that so many leaders make is that they do all the talking. Now, this might be because the other person is a dominant talker, this might be because you just want to get your message across and you want to be heard. But remember chiefs, rapport and trust is always built in a two-way street. This is a dialogue, not a monologue. If you want to earn the right to have someone listen and understand you, you must first do that and give them the dignity of doing that first. So always chief, always throughout this process, don't do all the talking. Let the other, let that person you are working with whose career and life is in your hands at this moment, let them do a really good portion of the talking.

Ego is the enemy

The fifth mistake, and this is one that I think most leaders are probably a little bit unaware of, and when we talk about it, it can be a little bit of a shock. And that is that they can very often lead with ego, lead with their ego. And when you invite or allow ego to come into a room around a performance discussion, it becomes a situation where It's me versus you. I'm right. You are wrong. 

Actually, the best way to run a performance conversation is to leave all of that out of the room. And this can very often mean admitting mistake, admitting error, being authentic, understanding the difficulty of the journey. But when the ego comes in the room and it's about a competition, about who wins the performance conversation coming out on top, you never win. In fact, neither party really, really wins because you haven't grown and they haven't grown, and they certainly haven't grown together as a unit.

So chief, those are the five big mistakes that so many leaders make. I'm really, really passionate about this topic. We've developed a resource that you can download that helps you as leaders have difficult conversations. It's called The Chief Maker Guide for Senior Leaders on How to Have Difficult Performance Conversations and you can get hold of a framework, and a bunch of scripts with really cool questions you can ask along the way so that difficult performance conversations are actually easier, more fun, they drew upon the wisdom in the room, and you become a really great true chief. 

Stay epic,