Attack the Issue, Love the Person!

We’ve been looking at different scenarios where team members aren’t performing to the level they’re capable, whether that be through their words or their deeds. In some cases, it can be very intentional. But there are certainly times where they’re just not aware that more is needed. 

For the most part, supervisors, and owners have great relationships with the people around them. That’s how it really should be, right! Solid relationships lead to long term working relationships, but that can also make it pretty tough to have a candid conversation… That said, not addressing a situation can lead to all kinds of yucky business down the road!

One of the fundamentals I learned early on with behavior-based safety, more specifically when addressing at-risk behavior with a peer, was to be very intentional about pointing out the potential for injury from that behavior and be very careful not to question their ability or intent in the process. Let’s be honest, no one wants to get hurt… During years of incident investigations and corrective action sessions, we used a very similar approach: Attach the Issue, Not the Person

When a leader has a good relationship with someone on their team, there’s a natural inclination to do almost anything to avoid hurting that person’s feelings. I get that! But addressing an issue doesn’t need to be about feelings! When we’ve been very clear on the front end about our expectations and guidelines, discussing times where someone is falling short of expectations or has stepped out of line should be tied directly to the behavior involved rather than making any assumption about ill-intent. Sticking to the facts and specific behaviors helps remove nearly all potential for those conversations to be perceived as a personal attack.

As we looked at the importance of exceeding our customers’ expectations, I shared something I heard the first time I listened to Jeff Henderson’s Know What You’re FOR on Audible: “The way we treat our team members will be the way they treat their customers!” I’m now going through it for the third time and caught a statement that applies just as much to addressing performance issues: “People who are believed in work harder than people who are not.”

Jeff’s comments seem pretty simple, but they’re incredibly profound! If we can show our team members that we believe in them and in their ability to exceed expectations, and we address specific issues without attacking them personally, there’s no reason at all that we can’t maintain the highest of standards throughout our organizations on an ongoing basis! We may even go as far as saying we Attack the Issues and Love the Person!

Next time, we’ll look at how doing this effectively and consistently can build strong bonds across our entire team!


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