Managing people is tough. You like the people you work with, or you wouldn't have hired them. And one of the greatest prides is creating a cool work environment- one that is accommodating, understanding, and fun yet produces an excellent work product. But balancing these two things is challenging. And no matter what, uncomfortable situations come up. The natural inclination is to pass the dirty work to someone else, but that does not answer your problem.
I have seen business owners stick their head in the sand, only to wake up to an even more unpleasant reality that has them at their most vulnerable. Entrepreneurs have confessed their desire to just walk out the front door, leaving one of their biggest loves and accomplishments, just so they can avoid conflict.
Relationships are key to every business, and as a business owner, it is important that you learn how to handle conflict and manage expectations. How you communicate dictates the level of respect you receive in return. Therefore, it is important to be clear, direct, and thoughtful when responding to situations.
If you feel like something is off, it probably is. Energy is often a clue that something is not right. If you feel something is off but there is no evidence, trust your instinct. Look around. There is never any harm in checking in with someone to see if you are on the same page and to see if they have any questions or news regarding their role or project. You may be surprised to hear what is on their mind.
Be accommodating to the truth. Finding the truth behind a situation is your holy grail. Sometimes the truth is in you, other times it lives in others. When things get complicated, you will find the answer by listening to both parties and mitigating the situation from there.
Either way, it is important to be calm. Others probably will avoid telling you the truth if they are worried that you will have an angry, critical, or defensive response. The same is true internally. It is difficult to come to terms with your honest feelings if you are not calm. And as leaders, sometimes your honest feelings dictate the final decision.
Consider your part in this. Be thoughtful of your role in the issue. Where are your responsibilities as a leader? Did you communicate clearly enough? Were expectations discussed in enough detail? Sometimes you communicate a stronger message in what is left out of guidelines or picked up from side conversations.
If you find that you have been unclear, it is still important to communicate your need for things to go differently. Explain how you wish things had worked, mention what you will do differently next time, and ask the other person to understand why you need this.
Communicate dissatisfaction. If you are not happy with someone’s work product or behavior, speak to it immediately. Give the person a chance to correct it. Clearly state why you are unhappy or frustrated, what you expect, and why.
Know when to end it. Sometimes the relationship is just not a match. If you communicated that you are dissatisfied several times and there is no correction, it is time to evaluate this further. Does this person understand their role? Are they providing value? If not, it is time to move on.
The hard part is knowing what to say and how to say it. One of my favorite things to do for clients is to be their sounding board and to help them resolve conflict. This is an important skill to learn as a business owner. It will make your business more secure and lighten your stress load.