Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Professionally Confrontational

Volume: July 2011

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


From time-to-time one of your team members may get out of line. It happens. And when it does, it disrupts the rhythm and results of the team. As leaders, we know that we should address the situation. Yet, sometimes things seem to quell and it is just too deliciously tempting to let the situation slide by and pretend that no harm occurred. In other words, some leaders choose to be non-confrontational. But what are the long term implications of such leadership behavior? Answer:

  1. Rogue team members may feel unjustifiably empowered
  2. Team members may question your leadership ability  
  3. Personality conflicts may form or escalate
  4. Us versus Them” may spring up between functional areas


In other words, negative consequences almost assuredly occur when leaders do not promptly confront a behavior or performance issue in their workplace. The question then becomes: “What should a leader who is really a non-confrontational person do?” The answer is as follows:

  1. Be intentional about embracing a mindset of “being tough on the issues and easy on the person.” In other words, simply focus on confronting the issue at hand. Too many leaders view difficult conversations as personality clashes. It is not. It is simply a leader being responsive to a negative stimulus in the workplace. No need to raise your voice or get red in the face.


  1. Take a deep breath and control what you can controlyour behavior. Obviously you cannot control the behavior of the individual(s) creating a workplace confrontation. But you can influence their behavior. In the process, stay focused on your behavior – and control it.


  1. Be specific. Seek to address the issue in very specific terms. This means detailing what your observance or understanding is of the issue, and how it impacts the team. Do not feel like you have to candy-coat things. Just focus on the issue, and layout the facts and consequences.


  1. Know when to create a working agreement. This is a collaboration tool that is mission-critical for leaders to know about and to use effectively. A working agreement details workplace expectations, and sets the tone for a solid working relationship. When a leader needs to confront a workplace issue, a working agreement is often a useful tool.


Bottom Line: Becoming professionally confrontational is a process. Many people need to become less confrontational. For the rest (or majority) of you: Embrace the right mindset, utilize a proven tool, implement a process, and get tough on those thorny issues.


Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and collaboration consultant, executive coach, and strategic planner. He is also the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders.  Doug’s audios and videos are also available atwww.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug help your team work together better, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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