Wednesday, 1 June 2016

What to do in an uncomfortable conversation

Conversation lead to great discoveries, relationships/partnerships, and can also have the adverse effects as well.

There will be times in your life or in your business where you are faced in having an uncomfortable conversation with someone. How do you face that circumstance?

Whether it is a breakup, a termination, or a death, delivering the message to someone who could be a stranger, acquaintance or someone you know really well is hard to face.

I have been faced numerous times with this outcome, enough so that I can be considered an expert on this subject, okay definitely not an expert.

Let me tell you about the circumstances of which I have faced personally and how I delivered the message. Whether it was successful or not, I have grown and learned from these experiences, and I will tell you about that as well.

My first conversation of which I will start with, yes there has been lots of these conversations prior to this one, but I feel this is a good start. It happened to me when I was 12 years old.

I was travelling with my friend from one city to another via bicycles and his wheel got jammed in a wedge between the sidewalk and road. He fell awkwardly and broke his arm. At that point we where between the two cities and about 30 minutes away from his residence. We managed to get to a near by gas station and call an ambulance.

When the ambulance took away my friend I decided it would be the right thing to ride by myself to his residence and inform his father of the incident. When I arrived at his residence I did not know what or how to tell his father of what has happened. I thought to myself maybe he would blame me for this, or maybe he would get so mad at my friend that he wouldn't let him ride bicycles with me anymore.

I was terrified of the outcome.

On a side note. The 'what if' scenario is both good and bad. Let me tell you why. Planning ahead and making a list of the outcomes that could potentially happen prepares you for the worse case scenario if done right.

Ask yourself "what if this happens, how would I deal with it?" Asking the right questions and providing realistic answers can both reduce stress and increase confidence.

Back to the story, upon my arrival my friend's father seemed confused as to why I was there alone. When I began explaining to him what happened, he went from being sympathetic to angry in an instant. I thought than maybe that wasn't the right thing to do, maybe I got my friend into more trouble now.

"Doing the right thing is always right." Gary Vaynerchuk.

I learned that putting aside how a person will react is a must when dealing with sensitive information.

"Emotions don't last long, they are like spray paint on rust." Gary Cox

I want to give you two more stories however I feel one of them will take up a whole post on it's own so I will save the longer one for another time.

My next story is about an employee, my first, of which I had to lay off. Everyone who has a business will come to these circumstances of laying off workers for either doing a poor job, not having enough work for them, or breaking companies ethics. I am sure there are other stranger reasons for lay offs, these are the most common.

The employee I laid off fortunately did not work for very long with the company. However it was something I did not look forward to.

Two reasons why I dreaded firing my employee are, first he was a great earner and that came with a drawback. Second he was adaptive and seemed to want to grow with the start-up company at the time.

I know you are probably wondering how could someone who earns good not be a good fit. Money sometimes can have a blinding effect on people. It was on me. However being a CEO I knew that short term gains are not in the best interest of the company if we wanted to become a giant in the industry.

How do you let go of someone who is putting forth the effort and is changing his behavior according to what the companies policies are? The conversation as you can imagine was not very humble between myself and the employee.

Especially because his wife at the time was giving birth to a newborn child when I decided he wasn't the right fit for the company.

Understanding his situation I did what I could by helping him after being fired despite his contentious behaviour and later his protest and retaliation against the company.

Here I learned that no matter how tough the decision is, I must embrace it by thinking of the overall picture.

A word of advice, when you hire you must hire right. Hire with the purpose of never firing the person again. Screen them appropriately, my best friend and business partner (in another business) explained it best to me. You want to be unconventional with the questions you ask your future hire.

The reason for that is because most chances are the person is coming prepared for the common questions that will be asked. So by throwing in unconventional questions such as;

"What would be the first thing you do if you were hired immediately?"

"Tell me about the people who you have worked with and what you thought of them?"

"Given what you know about this company tell me what you would suggest to bring growth to the company?"

"What would you most likely learn here that would help you in your future?"

"What business would you love to start?"

By asking questions that are outside of the norm and giving hypothetical scenarios you test a persons behaviour and emotions which is far more important than a persons resume and past experience. Not to discount a persons experience because that matters too, just not as much. A resume does not tell you what a persons character and beliefs are

"You want to lead people who believe in what you believe in." Simon Sinek

It is less relevant as to what the person has done as opposed to who the person is, how creative they are, and if they are able to change and adapt when unforeseen circumstances come about. Are they coachable? If not you should not hire them.

My last story is about my first pet who had been attacked while I was walking her on my own. I owned the pet with my girlfriend who I am still with and we now have 3 pets. However breaking the news to her about her dog being attacked was the worst moment I can imagine for her, and for me being the person on the other end of the phone, knowing full well the broken heart that was about to unfold.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you find the information I provided useful. To read the full article about our dog who got killed you can find it here.

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