Using EOS® to Assist in Having Hard Conversations

Using EOS to Assist in Having Hard Conversations

Some managers thrive in the face of personnel challenges. For them, performance problems are mountains to be conquered in collaboration with their colleagues. But for many managers, addressing issues with subordinates creates quite a bit of stress.

Some stress is unavoidable. Few people enjoy delivering tough news. Still, there are strategies for making these conversations easier. To work, stress-reducing strategies need to be in place long before a hard talk is even necessary.

When a business is running a great system, hard conversations are easier to avoid and easier to have. EOS® provides a useful set of tools to help every manager get through their management challenges more effectively and with less stress. Here’s how you can use EOS to handle difficult conversations in the workplace.

Fewer assumptions means greater clarity.

Too many businesses are run on assumptions. Don’t get me wrong—assumptions aren’t always a bad thing. Without some reliable assumptions, a business would need an entire department dedicated to writing down all the little rules that keep operations humming and people content in their work.

Still, for every good assumption there are probably dozens of not-so-good ones. Every industry is loaded with unwritten cultural rules and unspoken norms. Veterans of an industry may think they have a complete understanding of these rules, but if you put a few of them together to write the rules down, chances are they’ll disagree about a lot of them. When a manager assumes one thing and the subordinate employee assumes something else, their conversations are going to start on the wrong foot every time.

Finding and resolving bad assumptions, together.

The EOS Accountability Chart is a useful tool for helping a team uncover those bad assumptions. I work with a website development agency that discovered this early in their EOS journey.

The template Accountability Chart provided to every new EOS client includes a seat for marketing and sales. The website builders decided to split the seat into two, one dedicated to sales and the other to marketing. A member of their team took the marketing role, and everyone figured the fit was right.

After a few months, we discovered that the team didn’t share the same assumptions. For the new head of marketing, “marketing” meant helping clients perfect their brands with great logos, color schemes, and so on. Other members of the leadership team had assumed that the seat would be focused on marketing their agency’s business—and that’s all.

When the confusion was discovered, EOS gave the team a path for resolving it without stripping the “head of marketing” of the work she wanted to do. They revised their Accountability Chart to put her under the Operations umbrella, where all their client work sits, and drew an extra line between her and the sales and marketing seat. Now she’d help both the agency and its clients build stronger brands—a win-win.

A framework of accountability

In the website development agency’s case, they avoided disappointment and frustration by using a shared tool to find a solution to a problem. But what about the really hard conversations, when an employee isn’t performing to expectations?

The Accountability Chart is a 10,000-foot view of how responsibility flows within a business. It lets everyone know who they are responsible to, but it doesn’t say much about what they are responsible for. Well-written job descriptions are a start, but as any experienced professional knows, job descriptions tend to go stale quickly.

Many of the tools in the EOS Toolbox™ can help with the most difficult parts of a manager’s job. Here are a few examples of using EOS to handle difficult conversations in the workplace:

The V/TO™: When the entire business shares in a common vision, it also provides a common grounding point to help employees know—often without being told—that their work isn’t advancing the company’s goals in some way. I’ve had several clients tell me that they’ve used the V/TO as a starting point when meeting with an employee who needs to correct a performance problem. It provides a neutral foundation for resolving the problem together.

IDS™: Sometimes an employee is struggling for reasons that aren’t clear to the manager. Following the EOS IDS process—Identify, Discuss, Solve—can give structure to the conversation. Remember, IDS is a collective process. Encourage the employee to identify issues and offer solutions as part of the conversation. Don’t end the meeting until a realistic solution has been identified.

It may seem simple, but just remembering IDS can relieve the feeling of navigating uncharted waters. A client once told me, “When I sat down with my employee I didn’t know where to begin. Then I said to him, ‘We both know there’s a problem. Let’s IDS it!’ Suddenly the meeting was a breeze.”

Regular meetings: A remarkable number of businesses don’t hold regular meetings. When a performance problem arises, teams that don’t meet regularly are forced to improvise, with predictable results. EOS creates a rhythm of recurring meetings—weekly Level 10 Meetings™, Quarterly Conversations™, and so on. Each meeting offers the team a chance to get back into sync and to address problems when they are small.

One client of mine described the benefits of regular meetings this way: “We all hated meetings before we started EOS. We didn’t have a structure so we’d waste a lot of time arguing. We still argue, but now we argue with a purpose. I can’t imagine how many discipline problems I’ve avoided thanks to that.”

Be ready for handling any challenge with EOS.

My work as a Professional EOS Implementer® has connected me with dozens of managers who are hungry for effective leadership tools. It’s always fun to see how a few fairly simple ideas from the system can transform and enrich a company’s managerial experience.

What management challenges does your business face? Are you ready to make changes that will curb conflict within your organization and unlock the full potential of your workforce? Give me a call or send me an email. I’d love to share more insights from EOS and how to handle difficult conversations in the workplace.