A little over a year ago, I took a workshop from a woman named Annie Pratt. Annie is a seasoned CEO who trains business owners on how to build and maintain highly productive teams. She’s amazing and I love learning from her.
On the second day of the workshop, Annie introduced us to a tool she calls the Failsafe Feedback Framework. She explained that it was a way to give people feedback about their performance, hold them accountable for their behavior, and get them to agree to improve.
I was really excited to learn the process but once I took a look at the tool, I immediately grew skeptical.
You see, I was looking for something that I could use to make people do what I needed them to do. I was looking for some magic words I could say that would cut off all objections and get people to comply immediately.
What she gave us was a framework for a conversation that felt WAY too touchy feely for me.
It had sentence starters like, “My intention for this conversation is…” and used language that felt way too tentative and touchy-feely for me.
I immediately dismissed the tool, slid it into my notebook and waited patiently for the next segment of the workshop.
That night, I got an email from one of my employees that made my blood boil. For months, I had been asking her to follow a simple procedure and each time, she would agree to do so, but she never did.
I was through! I don’t need this kind of stress while I am away trying to learn, I fumed. She needs to be an adult and take responsibility! I’m so tired of her nonsense! That’s it. She needs to go!
On and on I fumed. It was too late to address it then and I felt it would be better to get some sleep and deal with her the next day when I had calmed down a bit. So, I went to sleep vowing that I would fire her the next day.
Well… Maybe not
The following morning, I went to the last day of the workshop. I was sitting with a colleague and as we were waiting for the workshop to begin, I vented to him about my “Drama Queen,” employee.
“She never does what I ask her to do and I’m sick of it. She’s such a Drama Queen and I don’t need that kind of stress. So, as soon as we go on break, I’m going to call her and tell her that since she can’t do what I ask, she needs to find another job.”
He listened quietly to my rant and then remarked, “I hear a lot of judgment in what you are saying.”
“Judgment???” I sputtered incredulously. “How did I become the bad guy here?”
“Nobody’s calling you the bad guy Robyn,” he explained patiently. “I’m just referring to what Annie taught us yesterday about how judgment can cloud our leadership decisions.”
I scowled at him
“I think you need to use the Failsafe Feedback Framework and have a conversation with her,” he suggested.
I rolled my eyes. “You have truly drunk the Annie Kool-Aid, my friend. Look I love Annie too and I think she’s brilliant but I am not using that thing. I don’t believe it will work with
“Aren’t you always saying that any teacher can become a master teacher?” he challenged. “How can you ask Principals to continue to work with their teachers when you’re not willing to do the same with your employees?”
I hated him.
But I had to admit that he had a point. So, during the morning session, I reluctantly pulled out the Failsafe Feedback Framework and filled it out. I figured I would give it a try just so that I could prove to my colleague that I had done everything and that my employee was truly impossible to work with.
No More Drama
At lunch, I went somewhere quiet and reluctantly dialed my employee’s number. When she answered, I asked her if she had a few minutes to talk and after she agreed, I half-heartedly went through the framework.
About halfway through the conversation, I noticed a subtle shift. She wasn’t making excuses like she normally did. She was actually starting to take ownership for her part. What’s more, the more I listened to her, the more I realized that I had a part to play in the drama as well. By the end of the conversation, I had not only come to understand her side, we had come to an agreement about how we would proceed going forward that felt like real progress.
That afternoon, I had to admit to my colleague and to Annie that they were right. Even now, one year later, the employee is no longer a “Drama Queen.” In fact, she’s a huge contributor to our team and I continue to enjoy working with her.
So I want you to know that there is hope. Even when dealing with a really difficult, frustrating employee, there is hope. You can have a powerful impact on their behavior and help them take ownership and accountability for their own performance without friction, nastiness, and drama. In fact, if you conduct your conversations in the right way, you can turn even the most tense, awful situation around.
In the next few newsletters, I’ll share with you more specific tips and strategies for how you can hold people accountable without all the drama but in the meantime, I want to hear from you.
What do you find most challenging about holding people accountable?
Leave your comments below and I try to address them over the next several posts.
P.S.I reached out to Annie recently to ask her is I could share her framework with the people in the Mindsteps Tribe and she generously agreed to let me teach it in my workshops. Although I can’t reproduce it here, I am teaching it at The Builder’s Lab 2018 (January 29-31). Click here to get your tickets.