Confrontation and Splinters

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You may know him from his songs, but Kenny Chesney
appeared in the NY Times Corner Office column as a boss with more than a hundred
people working for him. Adam Bryant titled the piece: “Country Singer, Songwriter and C.E.O.”

There is a load of good advice in this column, especially if you’re a new
boss trying to figure it all out. Here’s one bit of advice that jumped out at

“One thing that I learned that helped me deal with human behavior is
confrontation, and I’m not that great with confrontation at all. But once I
started to be O.K. with that, the better everybody’s life got. We didn’t have a
lot of those problems after that because I try to talk to everybody as much as
possible to clear the air. If you don’t clear the air, with that many people
together on the road, it can be just a mess.”

Read that again. When he got better with confrontation, everybody’s
life got better.

Chesney is talking about being on the road, but that advice is something
every boss, especially every new boss needs to hear. Many of us don’t like
confrontation. Unless you’ve taken a program with material like my Working Supervisor’s Support Kit, you probably haven’t learned
how to do it well, but if you’re a boss, you’ve got to do it.

You can cut down the need for it by spending time with your team members and
having conversations, so you catch problems when they’re small. But at some
point you’ll need to talk to a team member about behavior and that’s when
confrontation can happen.

It’s like a splinter driven into your foot. If you deal with it right
away, it’s slightly uncomfortable, but if you don’t take care of it and fix the
wound, then things get worse and worse and worse.

Boss’s Bottom Line

When you need to confront someone on your team about performance or behavior,
the sooner you get the job done, the better it is for everyone.

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