how do I raise the tough issues at work?

4 UGLY Conversations to Have With Your Team Before Year End

The second half of December is a great time for recognition, celebration, white elephant gifts and other fun. Yes, yes, please do all that, but don’t stop there. The best holiday gift you can give your team is to “own the ugly.” To help your team have the tough conversations they’re longing to have; to stare squarely in the face of what’s not working and clear the decks for a remarkable 2017.

Own the Ugly

The other day I was facilitating a 2-day offsite strategic planning retreat for one of my start-up clients. We’d designed a “speed-generation” problem solving session where groups rotated through stations to identify the ugly issues that needed to be addressed and worked on real solutions.

Within 60 seconds of the first rotation, one group listed every “efficiency” tool their company was using to make “work easier” and then created two columns on their easel sheet–a  “should it stay or should it go” vote.  Everyone who rotated through their station got a vote and indicated what work group they were in. By the end of the session over half of the tools were “voted off the island.” The chairman raised his eyebrows, but took the lead in initiating a curious conversation.

What they found was that the tools they had selected one at a time for good reasons all made sense, but the requirements to keep everything up to date were driving people crazy.

I’m convinced that 40 minute conversation (which everyone gladly stayed beyond our promised closing time to continue– even though beer was being poured in their next agenda item…a holiday happy hour right outside the door) will save them thousands of hours of frustration next year.

“Why didn’t you raise this before?” Well, “No one asked.”

Own the Ugly. Make it safe to talk about what’s not working. It’s getting talked about somewhere. Best to lift it up, stare at it, vent if needed and then figure out what must happen next.

4 Ways to Own the U.G.L.Y.

Here are four ugly conversations worth having with your team. Ask, and then really listen.

U– What are we Underestimating?

Competitive pressures? New technology? The destruction that new manager is doing to our culture? The opportunity that we “don’t have time for?

G– What’s Gotta Go?

What are we doing now that doesn’t make sense anymore? What processes are more habit than value? What meetings are wasting our time? What’s gotta go for us to be remarkable?

L– Where are we Losing?

Where are we still under-performing despite our best efforts? Why? Who’s doing it better? How?

Y– Where are we missing the Yes?

What must we say “Yes” to in 2017? What new opportunities are yearning for our attention? Where must we invest more deeply?

Teams admire managers who “own the ugly.” Winning Well managers have the confidence and humility to go there– to start the conversation, and then listen deeply to the solutions.