Shop Life MSO Project Columnists

Tips for Having Tough Conversations

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All too often, even the best leaders struggle with conversation. They beat around the bush. They stretch the truth.They downplay the importance of a situation or an event.

Those leaders also tell everyone else how they feel except for the persons involved. They wait for what they feel is the right time to address things. And, all too often, they don’t address things at all. All of these can be detrimental to shop performance, shop morale, credibility and respect.

When an issue arises the only way to handle the problem is to talk about it now. 

I believe most people want to do a good job, and so many times people don’t realize they aren’t doing something right unless they are told. For example, we had a great body man working with us but the manager and he were not seeing eye to eye...or, so it seemed from the outside. The manager continuously told me how the technician would take two-hour lunches, and how it was hurting the flow of the shop. After this went on for a few weeks, the manager eventually had enough and let the technician go. I was in the area when it happened and the technician blurted out, “‘Well if it bothered you so much why didn’t you say anything?! I may take two-hour lunches, but I work until 7! If you didn’t like it, all you had to do was tell me and I would have stopped!” 

Something as silly as not addressing a technician’s lunch hours cost us a great teammate.

When it comes to quality, it should be one of the most important things (if not the most important) thing in your shop. Yet, so many times I see poor quality go unaddressed. 

I often see people tell other employees how so-and-so’s seam-sealer is no good, yet we don’t tell the technician we don’t like it. So often we are worried about making someone upset by telling them something doesn’t look quite right. 

But, in reality, only three things will happen if you address quality with a technician:

  1. They say, “Okay,” and they fix it 
  2. They disagree with you and say it’s acceptable, you say it isn’t, and they still fix it, or ...
  3.  They disagree, don’t fix it and disciplinary action is taken. 

I can say with 100% confidence option 3 is fairly unlikely at most shops. 

Issues going unaddressed can often lead to drama on a shop floor. And, drama spreads like wildfire and is unproductive toward the goal of the shop. The worst part about having a tough conversation is the dialogue we make up in our heads. If conversations are had with respect, they are easy to have. 

I think you’ll find that employees usually appreciate prompt decision-making and accountability.

Related Articles

MSO Podcast: The Importance of Having the Tough Conversation

How to Tackle Tough Conversations with Employees

Tips for Achieving High Throughput

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