Want to be a successful agency owner? One of the skills you need in your toolbox is the ability to have difficult conversations with candor and clarity.

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Hey everybody, Drew McClellan here from Agency Management Institute, this week coming to you from New Orleans. I’m with a peer group and one of the conversations that we’ve had a couple times as we’ve wrestled some challenges are around the idea that sometimes you guys aren’t as direct as you need to be with employees. So, you try to be kind, you try and be nurturing, you try and be supportive and all of those things are very important. But what you miss in that is the directness of your communication. And so, you kind of pussyfoot around topics or you don’t give clear, direct examples, or you don’t come out and say, “Look, this behavior or this behavior is unacceptable. And if we can’t course correct it together you’re not going to be able to stay here.” You need to be a much more candid and clear communicator when it comes to employees. I think we sort of sometimes passively aggressively communicate, so we kind of give what we think are very clear hints or we talk around a topic. But the kindest thing you can do with an employee is to be very kind, but direct. So, direct conversation… The book “Radical Candor” talks about this all the time. And so, if you have not read that book, Radical Candor, order it right now, turn me off, order it and then come back to the video. But the book, Radical Candor, talks a lot about how we, as leaders, miscommunicate out of an attempt to be kind or to avoid difficult conversations. And honestly, all we do is make it worse because we think we’ve told our employee. And by the way, this works with your kids too or your spouse or anybody, it really works in any relationship. But we think we’ve told a person exactly what they need to know or how we’re feeling or what we need them to do. But we really haven’t. And we have no way of knowing if they were able to decipher the clues in what we said for them to be able to figure out what we actually meant. And so, as a good leader, owner, manager, whatever role you’re in, being able to sit down with somebody and say, “Hey look, we need to have a difficult conversation.” And then be very direct about that conversation. Bring real life examples. Use very strong, clear language Use very strong, clear language and be really thoughtful in advance. and be really thoughtful in advance. And by the way, this is always a good idea to have if you’re going to have this kind of conversation to sort of map it out in your head a little bit. Like here’s how I’m going to get through this conversation. Here are the three examples I’m going to use. Here is the outcome I want to talk to this person about, both in terms of here’s what I want to change but also what’s the consequence if it doesn’t change. If you’re really clear about all those things and you then say at the end of that conversation, “Okay, I want to make sure you heard me. So I want you to tell me what I just said to you or I want you to tell me what your takeaway was from that.” You will be able to tell very quickly, based on what they say back to you, whether or not they really understood your message. And I think in a lot of cases you are going to be surprised, if you are not super direct, you’re going to be surprised at how did not follow with you. They either didn’t understand the severity, or they didn’t understand the nuance of what you were saying or they didn’t really understand what you wanted them to do next. So, as a leader and a manager, clear communication is actually one of the sort of core skills that we’ve got to master. And honestly, for many of you, you’ve got a little room to grow on this. It’s probably something we all have a little room to grow on, but for some of you, you have avoided this skill for a while and I’m here to tell you that it’s time for you to put it in your toolbox. All right, I’ll see you next week.

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