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Why Those Dreaded Conversions Are So Vital


We don’t go into business or a leadership position because we want to have those dreaded conversations with employees.

A dreaded (or fierce, or crucial, or difficult) conversation is about addressing and fixing a problem.

It could be a problem with the salon/spa business that can only be fixed by implementing change, so significant, that it requires buy-in from all team members.

Because there will always be certain team members that push back on change, these “change” conversations can be dreaded and stressful events. And dreaded conversations almost always occur long after they should have taken place.

Most often, the most dreaded conversations are with a specific employee. You know, the one that doesn’t take constructive criticism well, or blames everything and everyone except owning his or her personal behaviors or performance.

The problem with dreaded conversations has very little to do with the conversation itself. It has everything to do with how long it takes for that conversation to take place.

You obsess over it. You stress over it. You keep envisioning the conversation in your head and how the employee will react and respond.

So, you put the dreaded conversation on hold, hoping it will somehow fix itself — even though you know it won’t.

FACT: The sooner you have those dreaded conversations, the sooner your culture and team performance gets back on track.

Here are my eight No-Compromise Leadership strategies to get those dreaded conversations done and behind you:

  1. Fix it when it’s small: When a behavior or performance problem is identified, it is officially a problem. In a service business, behavior and performance problems translate directly into inconsistencies in the customer service experience. The longer you delay a dreaded conversation, the more you enable the wrong behavior and performance. Fixing a problem when it’s small is about coaching and training. FACT: Fixing a problem that has escalated to “dreaded conversation” status means that damage has been occurring for some time — and it’s significantly more stressful to fix. Strategy: Fix it when it’s small and you’ll have significantly fewer dreaded conversations to stress over.

  2. Your team is waiting for its leader: When an employee’s behavior and performance become an issue, every employee in the salon/spa knows it and sees it. The longer it continues, the more frustrated they become that the owner/leader isn’t addressing it. FACT: Avoiding the dreaded conversation chips away at your credibility as a leader to protect the company and its culture. Strategy: Better to expeditiously fix one problem with a conversation now than deal with multiple dreaded conversations later.

  3. Culture contamination spreads fast: It doesn’t take much to disrupt the culture of a salon/spa. The prime responsibility of a leader is to create and protect the culture of the business. That’s why clarity, systems and accountability are so vital to protecting your business culture. FACT: Most owners underestimate the time, level and depth of leadership engagement to create and maintain a dynamic culture. Strategy: Delaying dreaded conversations is inviting contamination into your culture. Get the conversations done and behind you quickly.

  4. When good employees give up: Once contamination settles into your culture, with little or no action from the owner/leader, good employees will begin to question why they stay. FACT: That one problem employee that you avoided having that dreaded conversation with, now has one or more of your good employees doubting their future with you. Strategy: Yes, get that dreaded conversation with the problem employee over with. But the next step is to have conversations with your employees to reassure that problems have been addressed. This is especially important if one or more problem employees were terminated.

  5. A bad fit becomes a really bad fit: If you made a bad hire and allow it to continue, it’s like allowing a wrecking ball to swing through your salon/spa. Everyone knows the employee doesn’t fit the culture — including you. FACT: A bad fit becomes a really bad fit the longer they stay on payroll. Strategy: Everyone makes a bad hiring decision. But those bad decisions are easy to fix. The longer a bad hire stays, the more damage it does to your culture and company. There is much truth to the old adage, “Hire slow, fire fast.”

  6. It’s your leadership responsibility: Dreaded conversations are part of being an owner and leader. They can’t be avoided or delayed due to the level of discomfort you have with the process. FACT: Listen to your people and what your company is telling you to do. Yes, your company speaks to you in numbers and measurements. When the numbers and measurements are heading in the wrong direction, it’s your call to take action. Strategy: If there’s a problem in my company that keeps me up at night, I deal with it. If it’s a problem employee, it was that employee’s chosen behavior and performance that earned him/her a tough conversation from me. Fix it or end it.

  7. Delay equals needless stress: I would rather deal with a tough problem in a timely manner than stress over it. In coaching, we see owners obsess and avoid dreaded conversations and taking action, often at great expense to their wellbeing. FACT: It’s your company and your investment that is on the line. Strategy: Have the conversation. Take action. Protect your investment and years of hard work. It’s what owners do.

  8. It never had to be dreaded: I hope that the preceding seven points made it obvious that conversations never had to escalate to “dreaded” status. FACT: We all have different levels of tolerance for confrontation. Strategy: Understand your level of tolerance and act before it goes dreaded.

Here’s my challenge to you: Leadership is a complex mixture of abilities, confidence, determination and fearlessness. No one is a complete leadership package. Some are just better at certain aspects than others.

There will always be tough decisions to make and dreaded conversations to have.

What I have learned in all my years of entrepreneurship is that identifying a problem and delaying/failing to act makes tough decisions tougher and dreaded conversations more dreaded.

When all is said and done, the decision to act is always yours. Get it done.


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