In my last Leading Thoughts, I wrote about the art of confrontation. So many of you wrote to me to say this was a weakness of yours and that you wanted me to say more on the topic that I have to follow up this week. So, here are your top ten questions.
1. Why do I get so nervous when I confront people?
You fear how you will be seen afterwards. You genuinely care about what is going to happen to the confronted person. You aren’t sure you are right about what you are doing. You are compassionate and hate to hurt people. These are the top reasons people shy away from confrontation or do it badly and all of these are fixable before the confrontation.
2. Can you recommend a good book on the art of confrontation?
No. I can’t. And I’m truly sorry.
3. What is the main thing you focus on when you confront?
The good that is going to result for everyone from the confrontation.
4. What do you say at the start of a confrontation?
That a situation has come up, that I need to talk to them about it, that I really believe we are all going to be better on the other side of this, and that what is happening now can’t continue if we are all going to reach that “better” state.
5. When do you decide to confront someone?
I prefer micro-confrontations that are like the adjustments you make when you are driving. If you don’t make micro-adjustments, you crash. So, I try to build a culture of these smaller adjustments so that larger blow ups don’t become necessary. But, on a larger scale, I confront people when either evil has to end or a greater good can result. This really is my entire guiding principle.
6. What is the worst that ever happened to you in a confrontation?
I had to tell a man that if he didn’t sit still and stop threatening people I would have to restrain him myself. Fortunately, the police came into my office to arrest him before I had to act on this. He had stolen a huge amount of money from the firm I was working with at the time.
7. Have you ever regretted a confrontation afterward?
Yes. Twice. And both times because I was too soft and so didn’t force the person to retool and ascend afterward.
8. What are you most concerned about when you go into a confrontation?
That my facts aren’t accurate. The person in charge usually has to rely on reports from other people. Normally, the leader doesn’t verify the accuracy of those reports themselves. Yet in a confrontation, you can’t afford to get it wrong. So, I usually overdo the verification of facts before a confrontation. Then I don’t undermine the good that can occur from the confrontation by having my facts wrong.
9. Can you define what a confrontation is?
A confrontation is a one-on-one meeting—perhaps with witnesses—in which an authority figure makes a set of facts known and insists upon a corrective course.
10. What do you most regret about confrontations?
That they have to be confidential. I think confrontation is an essential art of life and leadership, is a skill that people in every arena of life need to know. I wish I could video all successful confrontations to teach as many people as possible this vital art.