4 Tips to Avoid the Dreaded Call

How many of us have ever worked for (or with) someone that, when we saw their name on the caller ID, we dreaded picking up the phone?

There can be various reasons for this: we are scared of  ‘getting into trouble’ because we didn’t do something on time or to the level of excellence they expected, fear of being micro-managed, or even just reluctance of being poked and queried as to the particular approach we are using. Frankly, I believe most of us have probably been on both ends at one point of another – the caller AND the person being called. Lets fact it: neither position ever feels good.

As leaders, the last situation we want to create for ourselves is people avoiding us! We actually want to create accessibility, approachability, and an atmosphere where folks take risks, stretch, and feel they are fully supported. We want to create a team and culture where folks are high-performing, self-governing, and kicking @$$ in their respective positions. In fact, the most effective teams I have been a part of were the ones where the leader had the right folks in the right seats on the bus, and then just got out of the way so we could do our jobs!

So, as leaders, what are a few basic steps we can do proactively to minimize having to make the ‘dreaded call’?

  • Take the time to get the right people in the right jobs. If they are not in the right jobs, (a few tips to know when this is the case: they are not performing, are not happy, and are the complainers on the team), you have to make the hard call – FAST. You are doing them a disservice by lengthening their dissatisfaction and you are also polluting the team with negative energy. Help these folks help themselves by finding a position that optimizes their skill sets. They may not thank you at the time; yet, they will thank you later.
  • Remove ambiguity about goals of the team, and roles on the team. Be clear on expectations, clarify priorities, AND get buy-in on the front-end. Without it, you will be pushing the rope the entire way to the finish line.
  • Break down barriers and obstacles for them to do their jobs. This does not mean doing THEIR job – this means doing YOUR job – which is clearing the path for them to execute. This may include things like: budget, resources, political undertow and competing priorities.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Often. Early. Clearly. Have check-in calls – not to be confused with ‘dinging’ calls – to continue to support, clear away the barriers, and reduce confusion.

We want to be the ‘caller ID’ people with whom we work LOVE to hear from and want to talk to – not the dreaded caller! Oh – and if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to make a difficult call…remember to use the Platinum Rule: treat others the way you would want be treated if you were them. Breathe deeply before you dial. Stay calm and measured in your speech. Exercise patience and empathy. This will keep the channels clear and open, while still keeping your expectations high.

What approaches have you used to minimize having to make a ‘dreaded call’? How have you created a self-governing organization? What have you learned from leaders for whom you have worked that creates a happy, hard-working culture?

Please share – we want to hear from you!