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Principles of Confrontation

Leading people will always be difficult and not everyone will follow. That is natural. It will be impossible to get everyone to follow 100% of the time. People stray. That is in our inherent part of our imperfect lives that we live.

Due to this flaw that is ingrained in all of us, there will always be a time for confrontation in our lives. That could be a confrontation with a spouse (careful guys, this might not work out for you), a family member, friend, or even a colleague. Regardless, confrontation is part of our lives.

At that moment when you know that you as a leader must confront somebody for whatever reason, remember these eight simple steps to help guide you and preserve the relationship.

  1. Be firm – This is important. The other person cannot come away from the conversation thinking that it was a casual conversation between both of you. It is not fair to them and certainly will not get you anywhere.
  2. Affirm all you see that is good – Everybody likes hearing good things. Especially when it is a good thing about themselves coming from another individual. Who doesn’t like compliments? Take this moment seriously and do not berate the individual. Provide them with some good from the conversation as well. It will make swallowing that “pill” ever so much easier.
  3. Be accurate and honest – When you are describing the situation that has to lead you to this confrontation, be as accurate as possible. Also, be honest with them. If it bothered you, let them know that it bothered you.
  4. Know the facts – When confronting an individual, make sure that you know the facts behind their actions. Some people make mistakes and don’t know they are making them until someone points them out. Give them as much feedback as possible in this initial conversation. You will not want to come back later to give them more. You will just make them feel like you are attacking them.
  5. Follow up after the confrontation – Always follow up with the individual after the confrontation. Check back in with them and see how they are progressing after receiving your feedback. One of the biggest things I hate is when I receive feedback and my supervisor fails to connect with me later on and let me know how I am progressing or asking me how things are going. This is important, at least it is for me, to help preserve the relationship and lets me know what I have improved on or what I still need to work on.
  6. Be gentle after being firm – It is always easier to fall back and be gentle after that initial confrontation. It is more damaging to the relationship and the organization if your actions are gentle up front and then realize that you must be firm.
  7. Speak words that reflect the message and not your ideas – Use your word carefully. You only get to use them once. Make sure that you are sending the message and not sending ideas. The message must be received if you want to affect real change. Ideas are for sharing and discussing.
  8. Use discipline only when all else fails – There are times after the initial confrontation where nothing changes. It does not mean that you did not follow these steps or were not successful with these steps and the relationship. Sometimes some people simply do not want to change. After multiple attempts, then you will need to resort to discipline. BE CAREFUL!! This is the step that will certainly change the relationship. Rarely, does it change it and make it better.  This step is to ensure that the message is clear and will be followed. Sometimes discipline is necessary, but it must be used with caution. The purpose of any discipline is to help people, not hurt them.

Thank you for taking the time to read these tips on confrontation. I hope they will serve you well in your leadership journey.

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