In the preceding lessons, we had been discussing the E4C2 feed-forward conversation model that the best managers use to improve team member performance.
In the next two lessons, we seek to provide you with inputs to help you overcome the many challenges that you will undoubtedly face, when conducting E4C2 conversations.
In this video lesson, we look at a few fundamental mistakes that managers can make, which can lead to the E4C2 Conversation turning argumentative, and how you can avoid this.
“In the preceding lessons, we have been discussing the E4C2 feed-forward conversation model that the best managers use to improve team member performance.
Now, one important point needs to be borne in mind here: as much as you, as manager, want to make this a positive and forward looking exercise, it can still turn into an argument or a negative experience if you make a few fundamental mistakes or if in the past your dialogues with your team members have been about fault-finding, yelling, threats and insults.
In this lesson, we look at the four reasons E4C2 feed-forward dialogues turn argumentative, and how these can be avoided.”
“Consider this situation, where a manager, whose past review style was about finding fault and then yelling at his team members, now deciding to use the E4C2 feed-forward conversation model.”
Manager: “Hi Amit, how are you?
Amit (disinterested): I’m okay
Manager (Pleasant voice): “Amit, we are here to discuss your performance for this month.”
Amit (sarcastically): “Boss, so you are here to tell me that I am useless because I have not performed this month as well and that you will not sack me, if I do not pull up my socks – like you do every Monday morning right?
“Okay, let’s pause this conversation for a while.
In this case, the team member has approached the discussion with a negative and a closed mindset. Can’t blame him, can you? Actually, if you’re past review conversations have been only about fault finding, threat and insults then it is not surprising that your team member is approaching the E4C2 dialogue in this manner. And the first time that you try to carry out an E4C2 conversation, it will probably turn into an argument. You can minimize the risk of this happening by following the instructions that we will share with you shortly, but chances are this will happen.
So, if your past interactions and review discussions with team members have been all about finding fault, threats and insults, then here is how you ensure that your E4C2 conversations are more positive affairs, going forward:
Step 1. You need to realize that the team member is looking at this E4C2 review conversation through the lens of past experiences, and thus is justified in feeling that this E4C2 conversation will also be the same.
Step 2: Start by clearly stating that you have called for this conversation because you want to help the subordinate to improve performance and not to find fault with, yell at or threaten her/ him. You could say something like this:
Manager: “In the past, whenever I have conducted reviews with you, perhaps I have focused on finding fault or in threatening you.
However, this time and in the future, I want it to be different. I want to see how I can help and support you in improving your performance. So, what I want is for you to share with me how I can help you better your performance and I will also share what I could do. Remember, I am not focusing on finding fault, but in finding a way forward.”
Then, conduct the conversation with that intention in mind.
In spite of this, your team member might still be reluctant to trust your words and continue doubting you, which will reflect in negative behaviors such as being angry, making excuses or staying silent.
Step 3: In such a situation, allow the person time to experience the new you, one, who has decided to stop being the abusive, threatening sort of manager, but has decided to be a facilitator, facilitating the team member improve performance.
Do this a couple of times and you will most probably see your subordinate being more open to conducting an E4C2 conversation with you.
Here is mistake number two that managers make, which lead to E4C2 conversations from turning into an argument. Consider this conversation:
Manager (Angry): “Eeshwaran, I believe that you have not been visiting your channel partners and you also do not have the pulse of the market”
Eeshwaran (Shocked): “Boss, what are you talking about? Nothing of what you have said is a fact. This is pure speculation.
Manager (Angry): No, they are facts
Eeshwaran (Angry): Meaning, you have checked with someone that these are actually, true, right?
Manager (Angry): Yes
Eeshwaran (Angry): Whom did you check these with?
Manager (Angry): That is none of your business
Eeshwaran (Angrier; speaking louder): It is my business. They concern me. And they are factually incorrect.
In this case, the manager has based the conversation on speculation and feelings, and not on solid data related to performance.
This is a sure-fire recipe for an E4C2 conversation turning into an argument, instead of an honest and open exchange of views.
Instead, start the E4C2 conversation by first examining the facts of the case, in this case, the performance goals vs achievement. That, is what the first E in E4C2, Evidence, stands for.
So say something like:”
Manager (friendly voice, smiling): “Please share with me what your goals were and what you have managed to achieve.”
Let us look at the third reason why E4C2 conversations turn argumentative: the manager not displaying empathy, when it is required to be.
Manager: “Mitesh, you always make excuses for why your performance is poor. We are professionals. We need to meet our goals, come what may.
Team Member (Angry): “Boss, I don’t understand in what language I can make this clear to you. You are not understanding me. I was unable to work because I was bed-ridden for fifteen days because of a fracture. So, why are you saying that I am making excuses. It was not an excuse. It was a genuine problem.
“As managers, you have been given the responsibility to get work done, not matter the circumstance. However, in a case like this, how do you expect the team member to work?,,,, You need to express empathy in such a case. That will build a stronger bond between the team member and you, leading to your team member being more open to giving you their all in the future. This, in turn, will allow you to meet your goals.
Bottom line: display empathy, when the reason that the team member is quoting for poor performance is genuine.”
“One last thing that every manager has got to bear in mind, when conducting E4C2 conversations concern the softer elements: voice tone, body language and the setting of such a conversation:
A tone of voice like this:
Manager (gruff, angry): “Tell me why your numbers are low”
“…seems to convey that you are trying to find fault, even if that might not be the case. Keep the tone of voice in the conversation as friendly as possible. Something like this:”
Manager (friendly tone; broad smile): “In order that you and I can jointly arrive at a development plan, it is important for us to first understand as to why your performance might be low. Can you share your thoughts on this with me?”
“Also, maintain open body language, when you are conducting an E4C2 discussion. Avoid crossing your arms or your legs when you speak. Avoid pointing your finger at people. These mannerisms make it appear – even if that might not be the case – that you are closed to the person, rather than looking to conduct a dialogue, which is an open, honest exchange of views.
Lastly, conduct an E4C2 discussion in private and not during a team huddle. Nobody wants their mistakes highlighted in public. People will actively seek to defend themselves and their reputation in public and you will unable to conduct an effective E4C2 discussion.
If you are done studying this lesson in depth, we request you to scroll down to the bottom of this page and take the quiz mentioned.