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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #71

Now Is Not the Time for “Conflict-averse-itis” ...

All of my in-person client work—whether consulting, facilitating, training, or keynoting—has been postponed, modified into virtual, or cancelled altogether, due to the current mandates on physical distancing. But these physical constraints haven't adversely impacted my ability to keep in-touch (and in-tune) virtually with what my executive clients are dealing with right now to keep business strategy, operational excellence and goal-attainment a strong focus for their people.

A common theme woven into these discussions is the level of productivity for newly remotized-employees. On the one hand, there's concern that certain employees risk burnout when working remotely due to a lack of boundaries and workdays that never end—and this is a legitimate concern. On the other hand there is a concern—and how do I put this politely?—that in an environment without day-to-day oversight, some team members may not "use their time wisely." Today, we will focus on the latter.

As a manager of remote workers, you walk a fine line as it pertains to performance expectations. You certainly don't want to micromanage employees because that will leave the impression you don't trust them. At the same time, however, you understand the need to monitor employees closely enough to catch potential problems early—before they affect the rest of the team or the organization's deliverables.

The challenge we have today is very real; we need to balance our concern for the well-being of our employees with the need to keep our organizations running. And this is a challenge for many managers because of a pre-existing condition ... not the type of pre-existing conditions you've been hearing about lately ... but one equally as deadly ... it's a pre-existing condition I refer to as "conflict-averse-itis."

With some managers, the fear of conflict and the disruption that it can engender—especially during these tumultuous times—is even stronger than the fear of leaving damaging problems or attitudes unaddressed.

But confronting performance, while still being compassionate and understanding of the unique circumstances employees are now working in, is not only doable—it's necessary—to keep everyone's eyes on the ball and to come out stronger once we emerge from this crisis.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

The HVAs listed below will help you deal with (proactively) someone who may be taking advantage of the flexibility you've provided, someone who is not making himself available at appropriate times, someone who is missing deadlines without explanation, and/or someone who isn't completing her assigned tasks in a timely manner or with the quality you expect:

  • The Best Defense Is a Good Offense: As a manager, your role is to manage—not avoid—conflict. Don't postpone trying to find a resolution if something is not meeting your expectations. And conversations like this should never be done by email (if possible). It's much better to pick up the telephone or set up a video connection to ensure the communication is succinct and clearly understood. Most of your direct reports want to be productive; they want to know their work has meaning and that they are contributing to the bigger picture. Clear expectations will help them prioritize their work.
  • Treat All Deadlines as Hard Deadlines: In business, there will always be "soft" and "hard" deadlines. But every member of your team needs to know that missing a deadline—even a deadline for a small task that may not seem like a big deal—could snowball and impact the entire team. To proactively eliminate any conflict should this occur, establish protocols around what employees should do when they hit roadblocks, especially as it pertains to completing projects on time.
  • Use the CCD Process: Our Course-Correction-Dialogue (CCD) process keeps all discussions fact-based, non-judgmental, and objective (to ensure neutrality). The two critical steps of the process are a) state the observed behavior that needs to change and b) accurately describe the impact this behavior is having on the team, on the customer, or on the organization. Using the CCD will keep things objective and on track.
  • Wear Your Stethoscope at All Times: As a leader, it's important to perform an ongoing pulse-check with your virtual team to detect problems early. When you're engaged with your team on a frequent basis, you'll be able to sense issues as they crop up. When you suspect underlying tension and/or conflict, don't send a passive e-mail; get on the phone and talk to that person—or persons—as soon as possible. Unresolved conflict or tension will continue to fester unless it's dealt with early and decisively.
  • Create Team Accountability: Many leaders find daily touch points or huddles essential to fostering productivity, transparency, and collaboration within their team. Having an informal group check-in each day keeps the team on the same page and holds everyone accountable for their daily tasks and ongoing projects. In addition to group check-ins, set up one-to-one time with your direct reports in whatever frequency is necessary to keep things on track. When these meetings are set in advance, it takes the stress out of a sudden request for a meeting, and gives employees a designated time to talk about their progress or any issues they might be having at work.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"If you don't pay attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves."

— David Allen —