Everybody confronts somebody sometime: bosses, parents, teachers, spouses and even friends. It happens all the time. Parents do it at home; teachers do it in the classroom; spouses do it in the living room after the kids have gone to bed. A wife must confront a flirty husband, just as a boss must confront a lazy employee. None of this is easy, especially for introverts. But you can always tell when the person doing the confronting is a leader, and when hes not.
Ill never forget the day Ray Jeffery fired Allen Black. Ray asked Allen to come to the corporate office for a 3 p.m. appointment that day and he asked me to sit in on the meeting. Ray was the president, and he had hired Allen five years ago.
When Allen got inside Rays office and we shut the door, Ray handed him a letter from a woman. She claimed she had given birth to Allens child, and now he refused to support her and the child. She was calling a lawyer if the company didnt do something.
Ray shouted: Is this true, Allen?
Allen began to deny the whole thing: No, Ray, this woman has been trying to destroy my marriage for years ... But Ray cut him off and began to shout and swear and say he didnt believe him. He claimed Allen was a disgrace to his family and to our company. Finally, Ray stood up and pointed to the door and fired him on the spot. I found out much later that Allen had told the truth: the woman was a liar. It turned out that Ray was a boss, but he was not a leader.
If you have to confront somebody this week, and you want to do it like a leader, you might want to think about these five rules:
1. Cool off. If youre angry, (the way Ray was) cool off. Wait an hour, or even a day, but dont start a confrontation when youre boiling. Itll just turn into a shouting match, and what have you gained? Dont put it off too long, however -- especially with children; they wont know what youre talking about.
2. State the facts. This is what I saw you do. Dont launch into the always game: You always do this. Just stick with the facts. If youre the boss and hes missing his sales targets, show him the sales chart. Ray was correct in showing Allen the letter.
3. Listen. Allen left the building and the company -- without ever being heard. Its hard to listen when your mind is made up. Everything sounds like excuses. But if youre going to have a tactful confrontation, you must empty your mind, and listen. Listening doesnt mean you agree. Listening doesnt mean youve turned soft. Listening provides the tact that every successful confrontation must have.
4. Tell how you feel. After you have listened to everything he has to say, make it very clear how his actions made you feel. Every husband will say: I didnt mean anything by it. Thats wonderful, but that doesnt matter. What matters is how you feel. The salesman will have a hundred reasons why he cant meet his goals; none of them will change the fact that he makes you feel frustrated or embarrassed or irritated.
5. Ask for change. Ask him what he intends to do about it. Youve been tactful: youve curbed your anger; youve stated the facts and listened; youve let him know how his actions made you feel. Now you have a right to know what changes will be made, when and how.
Everybody confronts; leaders do it tactfully.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.