The moment you say to an employee on that team you lead “I want to talk with you about your attitude” – Look OUT! That very phrase will create a defensive reaction that you’re likely not prepared to discuss or deal with, if in fact, what you were trying to do is coach someone to demonstrate a better attitude. There is a better way and it works on “Eeyore’s” and “Pom-Pom” wearing employees alike. Here’s the deal:
Attitude Affects Everything
Last year, we lost a legend in the speaking industry. His name was Keith Harrell and he was ALL about Attitude. His attitude was fantastic and in fact, when asked “How are you?”, he always responded with “Super Fantastic!” Keith demonstrated a great attitude and its affects constantly. Your attitude determines your altitude, its true, but your attitude also affects everything you do and the same holds true for those you lead. But, the important thing to realize here is that if attitude affects everything, that means you can address other things that are symptoms of a poor attitude and still get the same result with an employee.
Focus on Behavior and Performance
Addressing someone’s attitude directly is dangerous because we have so much personal ownership and pride and attachment to our attitude. It’s usually seen as “who we are” rather than something we do or can change. Thus, when you address an attitude problem, you involve emotions. Instead, recognize that attitude affects behavior and performance and focus on those two. Address an employee’s identifiable behavior or their measurable performance and give them ways to demonstrate that change. We are not as attached to behavior or performance and see those as elements as something we have the ability to modify more easily.
Keep it Objective
Because there is less emotional attachment to behavior and performance, you can point out actions that are less subjective in nature. Whether or not you think someone has a bad attitude is about your opinion and creates a “your word versus theirs” scenario. However, when you can point out a specific behavior that leads to poor performance, these are items that can be considered fact. The numbers are x and need to be x in order for you to remain on the team. That is a fact, hopefully written down somewhere in your agreement with this employee. It’s not an opinion and the conversation that shares facts is likely to evoke a less defensive, less emotional reaction from that employee.
It’s all connected certainly, but the key is improved performance and having a conversation that is focused on just that, or behaviors that lead, to that is a far more effective way to address the issue at hand and reduce your stress level during and after the conversation. Stop dreading the emotional damage control of a discipline conversation and start developing those valuable team members without whom your numbers would surely be less than what YOU need to remain employed as a leader.