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How To Get Comfortable Having Difficult Conversations With Your Team

June 11, 2021 in Business

This article is based on a presentation by Liz Trotter from the 2020 Maid Summit. Liz is the founder of American Maid Cleaning, LLC, a leadership trainer, and the creator of Mastermind Accountability Groups based in Olympia, Washington mentoring other business owners and helping them create a path towards success. In this post, we’ll share her tips for remaining cool, calm, and collected during difficult conversations with your maid service staff. 

Regardless of your business or industry, you’re going to have a difficult conversation or two at some point in your career as an entrepreneur. How these conversations go depends on how well you’ve prepared for them and how well you can lead the discussion to an amicable solution. 

Whether it’s difficult conversations with a customer, or deciding how to handle performance issues with an employee, you need to have a plan of action. 

When it comes to addressing issues with your team, it’s not easy to tell a team member that they aren’t performing up to your expectations. But to get the results you want in your business, you have to navigate these types of interactions to support your staff and help your business continue to grow. 

You need to master the art of being firm about your expectations while still building trust and support among your staff. 

Here are five steps to addressing, communicating, and resolving issues with your staff through challenging conversations. 

Identify the root of the problem 

Before you can address a problem, it’s important to know what’s causing it. Understanding the root of the problem will help you come up with a more reasonable solution. 

There are several types of problems that can occur that spark the need to have difficult conversations. A few main issues that might come up in the workplace include: 

  • Performance issues – When an employee is not meeting their goals or doing what is expected of them. 
  • Behavior problem – When a team member has a negative attitude in how they behave while on the job. 
  • Skill problem – When a team member doesn’t have enough training or experience in a particular aspect of the job. 
  • Personal problem – When there are problems at home that are affecting an employee’s job performance.  

Prepare ahead of time 

When you know you have to talk with a team member, preparation is critical, and sooner is better. 

When a challenge arises, try to address it as soon as it comes up. This will reduce the amount of lingering emotion around the issue and can prevent the problem from escalating. Right after an incident, or when you notice an issue coming up, invite the team member to a meeting. 

Decide on a location that is private and comfortable for you to both share openly. The meeting can occur in your office or a neutral space like a meeting room or a virtual video call. 

Before this meeting, you need to create a plan for how the conversation will go. Have a document or outline that describes the issue and lists out desired outcomes and solutions to the problem. Create a loose script for how you will approach the conversation. 

This script describes the problem from your perspective and asks what you think the team member feels the problem is. If you can start to look at it from their perspective, it will give you more insight into how to communicate the situation to them more clearly. 

When you notice an issue arising, it’s essential to address it completely the first time. When you have this meeting with your team member, don’t leave things unsaid. 

It can be tempting to try and save things for another day or hope that it will resolve itself, but this is not the right approach. If you don’t address what you’re thinking or feeling, you’ll likely have to have this conversation again in the future. 

It also helps to role-play this conversation with someone else beforehand. It allows you to prepare responses to questions they might have and help you develop better outcomes for the conversation itself. 

Lead the conversation 

When the meeting starts, be positive and reassuring to make them feel comfortable. It’s important to reassure them that they are a valued member of the team and thank them for meeting with you. 

When having a difficult conversation, maintain control of the discussion by standing confidently in your thoughts. If you have a hard time feeling confident at first, don’t worry. 

It takes practice to master control over your emotions and confidently address issues with your staff. It’s okay to fake this confidence until you start to feel it authentically. 

Be direct and to the point. Try to avoid vague language and make sure to be as specific as possible about the problem you are addressing. This can help to prevent any confusion about what the real issue is. If possible, have examples of specific incidents that led up to this conversation. 

Offer support and avoid confrontational or accusatory language. It’s important to refrain from having an attitude or overtly blaming the person. Remember that this may be the first time they are learning about a problem. It’s crucial to enter the conversation with a solution-oriented attitude to give them a sense of confidence that you will work with them to solve the problem. 

Here is an example of how you could approach the conversation with a staff member who is receiving lower than average quality management scores: 

“I’ve set up this meeting because I’m concerned about your dropping quality scores. I’ve noticed customers giving you lower scores than average. 

When you get low scores, I think you might not understand the criteria or do not have enough time to do high-quality work. 

I want us to create a plan that will help you understand the criteria better so that we can work on improving your feedback scores.”

Be empathetic but not emotional. You can maintain emotional control by stating objective facts about what is happening. When you express confidence in the fact that you are going to help to find a solution, it will also reassure your employee that you care about their future with the company. 

Create a plan or solution 

During the meeting, address the issues in the past, but focus on the future. We all make mistakes, but try not to dwell on the past. Instead, come into the meeting with a solution-oriented attitude. 

This helps to reassure them that you will work with them to develop a solution to avoid this problem again in the future. Future-oriented conversations can be very helpful at relieving some of the tension or fear the team member has about losing their job. 

Before the meeting, prepare a plan of action that is measurable in some way to help them improve and solve the issue. Come prepared with suggestions you have for improvement, and give them the chance to offer their own suggestions as well. 

It’s also important to ask questions and make sure that your staff member understands why this conversation is happening. If this is their first warning or they aren’t aware that there is an issue, they may be confused. 

Ask them questions to make sure they can see the situation from your point of view, and allow them to ask you any clarifying questions as well. It is also helpful to set up opportunities for training in the interim to offer support in helping to achieve the goals you’ve set. 

Suggest the plan you have in mind, and encourage them to offer any feedback or comment on how they think this plan will impact them. Along with the solution you offer, create a plan for accountability so that you can measure the progress in a timely fashion. 

Measure outcomes 

When creating ideas for solutions to a problem with a staff member, you need to know what a successful solution looks like. This means having solid action items and ways to measure these items that let them know that they are improving. 

When you present these during the conversation, the employee can leave that meeting confident that they know what to do to improve. 

Schedule a follow-up not long after that first meeting, and have an idea of what milestones you want them to have achieved by that point. 

If you notice that the team member isn’t maintaining their end of the agreement or the plan, it may be time to revisit the core of the problem. The main issue may be that they are not a good fit for the role in general or are not willing to do what you need them to do to succeed. 

Final Thoughts

There are no easy solutions when it comes to these conversations. They take practice and confidence to execute, but are a key part in nurturing your team and growing your business. 

Being adequately prepared and having an action plan of what you hope to achieve from these conversations will make the most significant impact when the time comes to meet with your team member. 

For even more tips and scripts on approaching these difficult conversations, check out Liz’s full presentation from the 2020 Maid Summit. 

The Maid Summit, hosted by ZenMaid, was designed to give maid service owners the tools and resources they need to grow their cleaning business. Get full access to over 40 presentations from other maid services owners, industry professionals, and more

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About the author: Amar is the founder and CEO of ZenMaid Software, Inc (www.zenmaid.com). He previously started and ran Fast Friendly Spotless, a maid service in Orange County, CA. With the help of customized software to automate work he successfully operated the service in under 30 minutes per day. His goal with the maid service software at ZenMaid is to help other maid service owners do the same.

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