Saying Nothing IS Saying Something

Have conversations about the impact of an individual's behavior on the organization.  
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Impact Messages

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A COMMUNICATION MODEL FOR TOUGH CONVERSATIONS

Leaders and team members of a high performing organization take opportunities to help each other by offering feedback because they are invested in each other’s success. Although giving and receiving feedback can seem like an uncomfortable or difficult task, it is crucial to help others correct unwanted behaviors in a supportive way. Providing a colleague or individual you supervise feedback is a caring gesture. Treat this as an opportunity to build a relationship and problem-solve with the employee rather than a time to criticize. After an impact message conversation, a person should feel motivated and understand how their behavior impacts the organization’s mission. Successfully conducting an impact conversation is a skill all leaders can use to improve performance.

It's About the Mission

Conversations that address behavior and performance are necessary if the organization is going to meet its goals and achieve high results. If we allow behavior that is unaligned to our values, standards, and culture to continue, we are saying we permit and promote those actions. Helping others to correct and improve their behavior shows the entire team you care about them as an individual as well as the whole organizations’ success. When impact message conversations are conducted correctly, they can make the difference between an employee who is fully engaged and committed to the organization, and one who feels criticized and unmotivated.

Before it becomes necessary to have a conversation in an attempt to help a colleague, supervisor’s, or supervisee’s behavior, it’s important to invest in building your relationships. Invest in your colleagues’ personal lives, practice active listening when others are speaking, and get to know the people you work with. The recipient will likely be more grateful for the feedback when it comes from a person they have established trust with. When we have previously built a foundation for strong relationships throughout our organization it is easier to understand that feedback is a helpful and necessary part of improvement for everyone. Some key phrases to use so the recipient understands the message is coming from a supportive stance are, “I want to see you succeed, and I see an opportunity for you to strengthen your skills,” or, “I want to set you up for success,” and “I care about you.”

In leadership, it is important to be able to recognize behaviors that are not aligned to the organizations desired values or standards. The purpose of an impact message is to correct a repeated behavior or action in a supportive, caring manner that helps the person understand how their behavior is impacting the organization’s mission. The impact message can be used during a leader-to-employee conversation, or between colleagues, chairs or board members. If you are just witnessing an undesired behavior for the first time, it is best to approach the conversation using the Stub Your Toe model. The Impact Message is often the next logical step to take after a Stub Your Toe conversation if the unwanted behavior continues. These types of conversations work best in a face-to-face format, never send an impact message via text or email.

Conduct an Impact Message Conversation in 4 Steps:

Describe the behavior

  • When you…
  • For example: When you violate our dress code policy by wearing inappropriate clothing to work

Describe the Impact

  • The result is…
  • For example: The result is that customers perceive a lack of professionalism and choose to take their business elsewhere next time

Indicate the desired Change

  • I need/want/would like…
  • For Example: I need you to dress according to our established dress code

Get a commitment

  • Do I have your agreement?
  • For Example: Do I have your commitment to present yourself according to our established dress code?

References:
Cunningham, Lynn. (2015). Taking Conversations from Difficult to Doable: Three Models to Master Tough Conversations. Pensacola: Fire Starter Publishing.

Keane, Beth. (2011). Spinach in Your Teeth Messages: the Art of Giving (and Receiving) Honest Feedback.

Practice Your Messages

Before approaching an Impact Conversation practice what you want to say with a trusted leader or colleague. Monitor your tone of voice and body language and avoid setting a negative tone by using ‘Yes, and’ instead of ‘Yes, but.’

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