No leader enjoys conflict. We all just wish everyone would do their job, get along and hit goals. But the reality is that issues always surface. A good leader knows how to handle these issues and has a system for managing them.
Here are steps for handling difficult situations:
Step one: Be clear with your expectations.
As a manager, you have to ask yourself whether everyone on your team knows exactly what your expectations are. Are all systems, procedures and expectations clearly spelled out and documented for all to review and fully understand?
Be sure to have the following in place for your business:
Corporate systems manual. Your systems manual should include everything needed to fully operate your business so everyone knows what to do or where to find the answers. The manual makes it easy to train new people because everything is documented and you are not relying on the training supervisor’s memory. Our business manual clearly lists general guidelines and procedures relating to dress code, punctuality, attendance at meetings, appropriate usage of work hours, cell phone usage, procedures for absenteeism, client conduct, team conduct and more. It includes our customer service initiatives, our approach to marketing and advertising, our system for sales, client programming guidelines, operational systems and more. To ensure that new staff read the manual, have them take a quiz on all the important components. For existing staff, your monthly evaluations should enforce that critical company expectations are being met regularly.
Employee agreement. When staff members are hired, give them a written document with their job description and your expectations. Review each item with them to ensure they fully understand all aspects of their job and their compensation package.
Evaluations. Evaluations should be done several times each year. Typically, you only remember what has happened in the last few months, so you may miss out on highlighting your staff member’s strengths and sharing with them when they are not meeting your expectations. The more you share with staff what they are doing well and tell them that you appreciate them, the more your team will perform at a level to gain your praise and recognition. Then, you will have fewer issues to deal with. Instead of dealing with a year’s worth of issues in an annual review, regular evaluations throughout the year can make the process more manageable and digestible for your team. In our business, each staff member undergoes a number of formal and informal evaluations throughout the year:
In the reviews, we go over the feedback forms and surveys that our clients complete, as well as the client shopper evaluations. Trainers also receive monthly reports of their revenue performance stats.
At any given time, a team member should know exactly whether they are hitting goals and meeting expectations. At each evaluation, we highlight strengths and establish goals and areas to focus on for improvement.
Step two: Handle employees who do not meet expectations.
Inevitably, you are going to have people on your team who are not meeting expectations, and you must deal with it right away. Otherwise, your strong team members will notice that the “problem child” is getting away with not meeting expectations and the virus spreads until multiple team members are slacking.
To nip this in the bud, schedule a private meeting with the team member in question and refrain from criticizing them in public as that will cause them to go into defense mode. But if you are aware of something that you need to address immediately, pull them aside privately and address it right away without others eavesdropping.
When addressing an issue, I find the following approach works most of the time:
Anytime you have these conversations with a team member, it is helpful to document the conversation. Record the outcome, goals, action plan and a time frame to reassess. In a situation where you have to let someone go or in the event of a wrongful dismissal suit, these documented conversations come in handy.
Step three: Know when it is time to move on.
So at what point do you give up on a team member? Here are cases where I think termination is the best option:
If I am having a hard time deciding whether I need to terminate someone, I will ask myself, “Knowing what I know now, would I re-hire this person?” If the answer is no, it is time to move on.
My hope is that with this information, you will arm yourself with systems to ensure less conflict. But if and when conflict does surface, I hope this article provides you a step-by-step approach to resolving it quickly.
Sherri McMillan, M.Sc., has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 20 years and has received numerous industry awards, including the 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, the 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and the 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year. Her million-dollar training studios in Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA, have received Better Business Bureau Business of the Year recognition. McMillan is a fitness trainer, a fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals, a featured presenter in various fitness DVDs, an international fitness presenter, and a spokesperson for Nike, Nautilus, Twist Conditioning and PowerBar. She can be reached at http://www.nwfitnesseducation.com/ or sherrimcmillan.blogspot.com.