I love this line from Moonstruck, the 1987 movie starring Cher and Nicolas Cage. Cher (Loretta), is engaged to Johnny. While he is away Cher becomes involved with Johnny’s brother, Cage’s character Ronny. Feeling badly that she has been unfaithful to Johnny, Loretta says she and Ronny can never see each other again but Ronny says he can’t because “I’m in love with you.” That’s when Loretta slaps him…twice…and says, “Snap out of it!”
How many times have you wanted to say this to someone who seemed stuck in a mood? Like, “Get over it and move on!”
This is what struck me in one of my one-to-ones this week, a monthly executive coaching session with one of my CEO members.
He shared with me a frustrating issue he is having with the manager of one of his branches. The branch is located hundreds of miles from the corporate office and the manager feels like he is on an island, separated from the mother ship and feeling left out of the loop regarding any important conversations. While this may be a legitimate concern it is magnified by the fact that the manager makes NO effort to involve himself. It actually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t make an effort to be included, resulting in me not being included and, therefore, what I believe to be true (they purposely don’t include me) comes true. This is when we want to say, “Snap out of it!”
My member suspects there is something else going on with this individual other than feeling left out of the loop, perhaps something personal. But how do you bring something like that up? It could be a problem like divorce or addiction, something we’re not capable or comfortable discussing. Understood. Not many leaders are educated in counseling. But, let me ask you this, if this issue persists with this individual what are the long-term implications to your business, both in the hours it will cost you and his co-workers and the financial cost to your company? Are you willing to risk a threat to your business because you have your own “story” around what may be going on with your employee and are uncomfortable dealing with it? Wouldn’t you feel better if you knew the issue and could help bring it to resolution? All of you CEOs are problem solvers. That is what you do all day. Leaving something unsolved causes you distress. So deal with it!
My member is concerned as to how he can bring up his “story” about his employee without being accusatory. “Do you have an addiction problem, Steve (not his real name)?” is probably not the place to start.
In a recent post, “What? You’re Unhappy?”, I suggest the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott as one of the best books on having this type of conversation. Let’s see how the conversation my member must have with his employee might go.
Member: “Steve, you have been a great asset to our organization. Lately you have seemed a bit distant. I have a feeling that something else might be troubling you that has nothing to do with feeling like you are on an island. For example, when you come to headquarters for our monthly management meetings you seem distant and don’t participate much in the discussions. Also, when we ask for volunteers to take on special projects you seem reluctant to do so. Are you willing to share what is going on with you?”
Now Steve may or may not be willing to share what is going on with him, if there is anything, but you have made it safe to do so. You are not accusing him of anything and you have validated his worth to the organization. If he chooses not to share that is his choice and his choice may lead to having to replace him because he is no longer a team player and it is affecting the health of your organization. But that consequence is a result of his choice. You, at least, gave him the opportunity to share what may really be bothering him and have it resolved so that he could once again become an asset to your organization.
The important thing is to have that conversation, however uncomfortable it may be, rather than not have it and continue to believe our “story” is true.
Consider Reading This
Difficult Conversations by Stone, Patton and Heen. Based on fifteen years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project this book walks you through a step-by-step approach on having that difficult conversation with an employee, spouse, or child. It shows you how to keep the conversation focused on the issue at hand and to avoid it from becoming personal.