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  • Eric Hannan

Stop the Triangles!!

I bet this sounds familiar:


Bobby and Chris just had some conflict. They both walk away angry and offended. Bobby goes and talks to their manager. The manager then goes and talks to Chris and then to Bobby again. If you are lucky it stops there, but more often than not, this triangle continues.


People managers, STOP IT! Stop creating feedback triangles.



Solving the conflict for them takes longer and doesn’t help any develop professionally. The next time one of your people comes to you about conflict with a team member go through the following steps:


Make sure it’s not harassment, hostile work environment, bullying or abuse. These and similar situations should be handled with HR.


Ask your person “Have you talked with this person about why you are upset?”


If no, “Great, let’s talk about how you can have the conversation with them.”


If yes, “Tell me more about the conversation, how did you approach it, what happened?”


Coach them to have another conversation using a framework if the first conversation wasn’t handled well


Offer to mediate the conversation, or find an objective third party to mediate


I realize this is a change in mindset. We are used to solving problems for people. However, by doing this we are missing out on some extraordinary benefits. I believe eliminating feedback triangles will offer the following benefits:


Reduce time to resolution of conflicts by:


Removing the middleman


People get better over time handling conflict


Help people learn to navigate hard conversations


Surprisingly this is rare. Navigating hard conversations should be added to high school or college curriculum.


Increase alignment and throughput


As people handle conflict sooner, communication improves which then improves alignment and productivity


Increase trust


Instead of people allowing issues to boil inside, they address it immediately.


Vulnerable conversations like these increase trust


Allow for productive conflict


As trust increases, conflict becomes productive and a catalyst for positive change


Your call to action is to start coaching your people how have hard conversations. Use a feedback model like Situation, Behavior, Impact (SBI). Go through the book Crucial Conversations. Role play giving feedback so you can get better and be able to teach others.


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