Picture your last genuinely tough conversation. Did you pause at some point and think, “How did we find ourselves here?!”
Too often, hard or difficult or fierce conversations didn’t have to be that way, and they didn’t occur by chance. Often, it’s the way we approach or avoid an issue, the way we designed the timing of our conversations, that actually caused the situation to arrive at a difficult or crisis point.
It’s something we are often the architects of. So, we have the power to dramatically impact it.
The concept we affectionately call “Point Easy” creates a case for resisting the temptation to “kick the can down the road.” It is a handy framework for dealing with situations we know will eventually be addressed. It helps us resist the natural temptation to trade off “easy now for really hard later.”
Around the world, we’ve noticed leaders make choices on timing that actually makes things worse, and then wonder why so many of their conversations are so challenging. Situations that pass Point Easy move on to Point Difficult, and some even on to Point Crisis. Using the Point Easy concept helps to avoid wasting energy and time and can prevent many highly stressful situations.
As a leader, your fundamental role is to ensure that your team actually accomplishes its goals. Where, when, and how we exercise our leadership to help performance stay on track is the art of leadership. Cultivating a keen sense of timing, then developing the courage and skill to take action at the most effective time is challenging for the best of leaders. Confronting situations at “Point Easy” helps leaders come face-to-face with the opportunity for smart timing, and avoid paying the price for poor timing.
The idea of Point Easy encourages you to have a conversation as soon as you notice performance (of a project, or of an individual) is off of intended performance. There is a temptation to think, “Why do it immediately?”. Frankly, because bad news doesn’t get better over time. We’ve noticed that once performance starts to veer, it tends to continue to deviate. Why? Well, one reason may be that as leaders, “what we tolerate, we teach.” So, our inaction (or feeble action) at that moment can often reinforce what we don’t want.
One test for finding Point Easy is the moment you begin to think, “she really does know what I want” or “he will figure it out” when, in actuality, clarification may be needed. That is the right time to check in: more can be achieved with less resistance because the bulk of the work has yet to be done. By taking the time to realign on purpose and further define your outcomes, you reset the train on the right tracks.
We’ll say it again: Bad news doesn’t get better over time.
The longer we push off a conversation that needs to be had, the higher the stakes that the interaction holds. Too often, when we address something that has become an issue, the person receiving the critique says (or thinks), “I wish you’d told me sooner.” Continuing to ignore a problem–whether between individuals or with an organization at large–almost inevitably ends up at a crisis point. The majority of HR reps we work with say the most challenging performance discussions they have had are the result of ineffective communication and poor timing. For individuals, this usually results in disrupted or strained relationships or a crucial performance intervention. For departments or organizations, waiting to have these conversations can result in failed projects, which influences the culture of our workplace.
We’ll say it again: We stand for what we tolerate; what we tolerate, we teach.
Workplace culture is built around promises, requests, and expectations. Our co-workers and employees are always learning, making observations, and adjusting behaviors according to what is actively being accepted. By addressing performance deviations at Point Easy, we inform others of desired outcomes and effectively clarify what ideal behaviors and objectives are. We squash bad habits. We build a culture of trust instead of fear. We work more seamlessly together.
At Conversant, we’ve found that people strongly prefer and usually expect immediate feedback and respect leaders who provide it. We’ve also noticed people tend to not respect leaders who shirk away from providing authentic, valuable guidance. When leaders provide feedback we feel more comfortable in our workplace and stable in our jobs.
Point Easy is the moment to address deviations in ways that ultimately cost less time, money, and stress. At Conversant, we believe that by improving how we communicate and when those conversations take place, we enhance our human connection and invest in the growth of our co-workers and employees. This, in turn, creates a culture of respect and trust. When people feel valued–especially by leadership–they are empowered to do their best work. Conversant consultants use tools and concepts to advise leaders and co-workers how to have these meaningful conversations. The sooner you start using the Point Easy concept, the sooner your team realizes the potential to exceed expectations.
Finally, there’s a delightful side to Point Easy: when things are going better than expected the Point Easy is above the Intended Performance line. Here, we encourage you to jump at the opportunity to have a conversation with your team about what is working well and why. Honing in on success factors can reinforce positive behaviors and desired outcomes. Conversations at this positive Point Easy can raise a trajectory from as-expected onto a path toward truly extraordinary outcomes. It also makes having conversations easier because check-ins at Point Easy become standard, rather than the surprising exception. Increasing these moments of genuine connection through human interaction promote healthy relationships, shape company culture, increase efficiency, and produce measurable results.
At Conversant, we stand with you to design and build human connection that together unleashes our collective brilliance. Reach out to Conversant consultants to discover how you can partner with our global team that has helped thousands of executives and organizations achieve their goals.