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Next article September 24, 2009

Everything I know is wrong

Running feet

In the last five years I’ve run well over 6000 miles in marathon training. Over that period…



Every manager has to deal with uncomfortable situations from time to time.

From giving constructive feedback to letting people go, difficult conversations are part of life.

If you’re not sitting down with a troublesome member of your team, and dealing with the stuff that’s so troubling, then you’re not managing — you’re ignoring/avoiding/ evading/bailing/hiding/running-away-from and not living up to your responsibilities.

Some of the most difficult conversations involve key players who aren’t living up to their responsibilities or your expectations; worse still if the problem is a fellow founder.

  • Deal with problems early — don’t wait for a mythical right time. Give feedback (good and bad) as near to the source as possible. Immediate and direct is better than delayed and fudged.
  • Use direct language — “you’re not pulling your weight” isn’t very helpful; “I’m really frustrated that each new feature takes much longer than your original estimate,” is.
  • Write it down — the more difficult the conversation or the more likely you are to chew over your words, the better it is to use notes. I make sure I can stay on track by looking at my crib sheet and saying “Let me make sure we’ve dealt with everything. Oh yes, …”

No amount of experience or preparation ever makes these situations easy, but leadership means entering the discomfort and dealing with the issue.

One final point — don’t tell them how difficult it is to say this stuff. You may think it helps to get them on your side. It doesn’t. If it’s hard for you to say, it’s even harder to hear – so stop thinking about yourself and try to empathise; this conversation is not about you.

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Leading Managing

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10 steps to being a better and way more effective manager

Brighton beach on…
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