Unique circumstances the world continues to face provide opportunities for the right mindset. I am not suggesting minimalizing the impact inflicted by COVID-19. In fact, reflecting on the reality of our new world, I salute the front-line caretakers, medical staff and behind the scenes operators. They continue to charge forward every day because they are so desperately needed, and we would be compromised without them. Their courage is inspiring.

Some states are starting to unlock the doors for commerce and people will start getting back to work. Assembling the work teams back together attempting to achieve shared common objectives will not just happen by chance. Most people know how challenging it is to align multiple codependent departments effortlessly in sync with one another for a common goal. Why? Because of the people.

How many people on the team can identify exactly the source of the problems? Does each team member know exactly where their performance is compared to the goal? Hopefully, you have implemented systems to ensure the right skillsets are being deployed in the right roles and there are clear scoreboards in place providing visibility to everyone’s performance compared to the budgets and goals.

What happens when someone is not hitting the desired performance? Their scoreboard is lighting up with more red than green each month. Design and build a system that does the heavy lifting.

It is all about embracing, leveraging and exercising the “big C.” COMMUNICATION. I believe most tension, frustration and discontent found in professional relationships is due to the lack of communication. I suggest putting the guard rails in place to insulate your relationships from becoming prey to ambiguity. Here is my formula for success:

Regular one-to-one meetings

  • Prearranged scheduled date (preferably standing time each month)
  • Preset agenda (both parties required to prepare for meeting vs. show up)
    • I suggest a standard template that forces evaluation of actual delivered results vs. budget or plan (What went well? Why? / What missed the mark? Why?)
    •  Both parties required to provide feedback and perspective (two-way interactive vs. directive).
  • Agreed upon specific next steps and action items.
  • Commitment to follow up on action items vs. talking about it.

Fierce (Direct) Conversations – I highly recommend reading Susan Scott’s book “Fierce Conversations.”

  • The book is a powerful tool that many executives have leaned on for years.
  • The book offers context on the importance of direct conversations for productive relationships, as well as a recommended outline. 
  • This is an effective process with teeth and follow up.

Here is a summary of Susan Scott’s “Fierce Conversations” process:

  • Provide an opening statement that directly names the issue at hand.
    • The problem outlined or named is the problem solved.
    • If there are several issues/problems are there any commonalities?
    • State a specific example of the problem (no long stories, keep things brief and to the point).
    • Share an issue or problem that has behaviors or situation you would like to see change.
    • Share your emotions about the issue – be real and transparent in this area as it demonstrates to the person you are affected by the situation.
    • Clarify what is at stake — personally, for the team, the company, financially, etc.
    • Identify your contribution to the problem.
    • Identify your role in the situation, as well as your intentions.
    • Problems typically are neither created or solved by one person.
    • Indicate your wish to resolve the issue.
    • Invite the team member to respond.

Interaction – inquire into the other person's views (do you really understand what they are saying?)


  • What has everyone learned?
  • Identify and determine how you will hold each other accountable (I prefer to mutually agree to use specific tangible measurable results to remove any emotional interpretations).
  • Ask the other person to recap the conversation and agreed upon resolution in an email back to you (re-enforces both parties are aligned).

During the process keep the conversation on point and don’t let it veer off course.

Given the choice of “give it to me straight” vs. not knowing, people will choose the former option. Especially, if they are negatively impacting the team.

These tools create communication, alignment, commitment and follow-up action items. If these tools are used correctly, an under-performing employee will terminate themselves and elect to leave on their own seeking greener pastures. Most importantly, these principals and routines go a long way towards building TRUST in a relationship. As I have mentioned, trust is the most important and active building block in leadership. In the absence of trust, managers are ineffective leaders.


Cheers, E. Tryon