Episode 8: Behind the Manager's Closed Door

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Do you ever wonder what happens behind the closed door? Are you curious if you are having the right types of conversations with your employees? Do you wonder if you are the only one that leaves some of the conversations with headaches? Are you curious if there are better ways to structure tough conversations with employees? If these questions intrigue you, then please join us for our Voltcast. Jeff Smith will explore these and other critical questions that manager’s must address with Lee Hubert, Principal Consultant with Voltage Leadership. We will discuss best practices for 1:1 meetings, how to deal with a challenging employee, motivational ideas, disciplinary conversations, giving recognition and even effective team meetings. This practical conversation will help leaders become better at the challenging conversations and help them enter these conversations with more confidence.


Lee Hubert is a Leadership Coach, Trainer, Facilitator and Keynote Speaker with Voltage Leadership in Roanoke, Virginia. He brings energy and enthusiasm to grow leaders at all levels, help managers reduce conflict and build teams that produce results. Lee has served in various human resources and leadership development roles at Fortune 500 companies including: MCI, Wisconsin Energy, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Wake Forest University Hospital, and the Hospital Corporation of America. As a public speaker, he has presented leadership development topics at management retreats and strategic planning sessions throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern USA. Lee brings over 20 years’ experience in Management Training, Employee Engagement, Performance Management, Succession Planning, Employee Relations and Conflict Resolution to bear for clients of Voltage Leadership.


Jeff: Welcome. Boy, we’re so glad you could be here with us today. It is just a beautiful in the Shenandoah Valley and Roanoke Valley of Virginia. We’re in the midst of all the leaves changing it’s just beautiful here. And we’re so happy you could join us from all around the world. So this week we have folks from Pakistan and India and China and the UAE and Saudi Arabia and then pretty much every US state.

So just thanks so much our show is getting fantastic ratings and that wouldn’t be possible without you. So thank you from the bottom of our heart, thanks for being here with us. So again I’m Jeff Smith, I’m your host. This is Voltcast: Illuminating Leadership. You can reach me during the show at 866-472-5788, you can also email me at jeff@voltageleadership.com.

Our website is www.voltageleadership.com you can like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership, connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting and follow me on Twitter @VoltageLeaders. So today we’re going to be talking about Behind the Manager’s Closed Door. It’s just a really interesting topic. Lee Hubert from Voltage is here again today, so Lee, welcome.

Lee: Hey Jeff great to be with you again.

Jeff: Thank you, thanks for being here. So this topic strikes to Lee and I personally. We’ve both been human resource executives in multiple companies and we’re often the one behind the manager closed door, having a conversation trying to figure out what happens, what are the best practices things like that.

He gave a speech last week in DC at the G2 conference and it was just fantastic. I mean the ratings were through the roof I mean his head almost didn’t fit through the door this morning. But what I’d want you to know is that Lee does this all the time.

I do as well to try to help them figure out how they can be most effective. So Lee is also married to Jane, lives in the Smith Mountain Lake and just loves to do things like play golf in this beautiful weather we’re having, and loves to play guitar and hang out. So Lee, thanks for being back with us.

Lee: Thank you. Yes, I’m happy to be in God’s country Blue Ridge.

Jeff: Well I guess people are here to really hear about what’s behind the manager’s closed door. So Lee, what is happening behind that closed door?

Lee: Think about it, if you’ve ever had to have direct dialogue with somebody. You’ve pulled it behind the closed door, so what is the topic? Is it a performance issue? Is it about skill development?

Is it about dropping drama or removing drama from the workforce? There’s something going on. And there’s things that should and should not happen. There’s an old saying and you’re really familiar with it: People will quit their manager or their boss before they quit company.

And it’s kind of a reverse, I know you talked about sometimes the reasons why people live in the adverse order right.

Jeff: Right, yeah.

Lee: So they attracted to the company it’s a good opportunity, it might be the geography whatever it is. Now all of a sudden something happens. So one of the things that we want to draw on, is people have wondered what happens behind the leaders closed door. As you recall from last week’s show we were talking about the dreaded drama triangle.

Jeff: The dreaded drama triangle.

Lee: There are some ghouls, that’s for sure.

Jeff: Sure.

Lee: When you think about it the drama triangle is one of those places where your productivity can be lost. It is the cultural Bermuda triangle. So when you think about it people can adapt different counterproductive roles. There was the victim role and then there’s the rescuer role. So you’re behind the manager’s closed door you got a victim on your team. Or maybe you are the victim or maybe you are the rescuer.

One of the things we like to talk about is what would happen to those people if you did a good meaningful one-on-one relationship behind the closed door? And by that I mean, think about it for a second. You pull somebody behind the closed door. Think of it this way; the manager might assume the cultural instead of the rescuer role. That tends to foster a creator mentality versus a victim mentality.

Jeff: Yeah so what I’d say is getting back behind that closed door, often what happens is the manager is a rescuer. And here’s what I mean is that they’re so busy throughout the course of the day that someone comes by and says, “Hey boss, you got a minute?” knocks on the door, “You got a minute?” And they’re like, “Sure come on in.”

And what ends up happening behind that closed door is instead of coaching and saying, “Okay what can I do to help you?” they just want to be useful. So a lot of times the employee will come in with a bag of crap to drop on your desk.

Lee: Trick or treat.

Jeff: And that was the technical term; trick-or-treat. And they just come and they plop down, and they threw all this stuff at you. So you as a manager you’re like, “Oh my gosh.” So what’s happening a lot of times behind the manger’s door is the manager is overwhelmed because it’s just this constant revolving door of, “Hey you got a minute?”

And there’s emails going off and there’s texts being done and there are phone calls to be returned and there’s someone else queuing up outside the door. So often the dreaded drama triangle is going on behind that closed door. So that’s one thing is I think we need to just understand is our discussion today is, how do we move you the listener from that rescuer spot into being more of the coach and the challenger?

And if someone’s coming through the door kind of in that victim mentality like, “We’re always mean you’re not going to believe what this other department did to me and can you believe what the IT did to make me have to get online and blah, blah, blah right.

Lee: Yeah very similar to what people bring to my door.

Jeff: So what we’re going to try to do with you today is so sort of say okay so let’s talk about how we can be as productive as possible in those kinds of conversations. So the first is you have to adopt the mindset that you’re not here to rescue your employees. You are here to help them be as productive as possible and coach them up.

So I think that’s the first thing; it’s a mindset. Don’t be there thinking you’re the easy button from Staples and you’re just there to serve at their pleasure. No, they’re there to get their work done and you’re going to help clear some obstacles. So in that vein what are maybe one or two tools that we can start that process off?

Lee: Yeah I like the manager as coach line of thinking.

Jeff: Okay good.

Lee: And think about it, managers out there I see your heads nodding right you’re going through your day to day, you’re going fast. You could be having a fast-paced day. And then somebody wants to just come by your office and imbue you with their rays of sunshine. And there are times you think to yourself I need this like I really need a hole on the head today right.

But still you’re the manager, if you think about it, when the manager assumes the cultural versus the rescuer role, it tends to foster that creator role or a mindset in the employee versus the victim mentality. But I’d like to add the thought about the manager being the co-creator.

Jeff: Okay. What’s a co-creator?

Lee: Well you think about it, remember if the opposite of victim is creator, and you’re behind the manager’s closed door, and I’m trying to not necessarily rescue somebody but coach them up to your point.

I’m the co-creator. I want to do that. So the roles that the manager encounter and adopts plays heavily into the things that really do matter; your tangible business results, your employee engagement, your good turn over, your bad turnover, overall esprit de corps with your team, conflict resolution.

And there are all these different tools that we can employ. And into your point, one of the things that I really like, and I think is foundational is a really well-ran, well thought out, one-on-one meeting.

Jeff: So is that one-on-one like the employee and the manager?

Lee: Yeah most of the time yes, it might vary into that in just a second.

Jeff: Good to know.

Lee: Now follow me on this. The other day I was at dinner and I was talking to some friends. And we were talking about their actual experiences behind the manager’s closed door.

I mean it’s like you like to get people in their natural, they’re disarmed, they’re at dinner it’s like you’re having derbs or like whatever the case is. So I asked what was actually taking place. One person told me that their manager had office hours that were reminiscent of undergraduate which I liked.

Jeff: Yeah I imagine.

Lee: And that did a lot of good things, first of all it made it predictable.

So you knew that if you didn’t catch the office hours this time there were more office hours coming.

Jeff: I use that often with the folks I coach because what often happens is that that knock-knock and that interruption takes you away from really important work. So if I know from two to four that I’m going to be available, I can do work on sort of some minor things, clean up some emails and files, pay travel expenses. Then I can sit down and then I can really pay attention.

So that predictability is a really good formation of a powerful one-on-one. What else; what are some other things?

Lee: Well you mentioned things about time management more of that in a second and about well to finish this thought where this person knew that there was a predictable point that if they had something really important escalate they could do it, or if it was an emergency obviously it escalated sooner. But her take away from that experience was one of validation.

Jeff: Validation, that’s a big word.

Lee: It is and let me tell you, we talked about engagement and things that really matter. So here’s the person who is driving my team, my boss, my reporting relationship, and it feels good to be validated, to be understood. And there’s a whole lot more that we’ll talk about in terms of tools of what the employee takes away and things that the manager should be doing behind their closed door.

Jeff: Yeah this is excellent. So I want to pick up on a few things from my own experience with these one on ones I do.

We’ve been together on one on ones from eight o’clock on Friday mornings I have one on ones at regular standing meeting. So I think that’s important. I think it’s things that we do on a regular basis. One of the things that we’ll talk about here we’re coming on a break in a minute but we’ll talk a little bit about time management.

And then Lee and I will be talking about that in much great detail next week, because some of you are going to be like, “Oh my gosh Jeff, you don’t understand my day. I’m racked and stacked where am I ever going to find time for this?” and what I offer is that you have to.

Lee: You see the irony there; I can’t find time to do time management. What’s wrong with this picture?

Jeff: Yeah so I think you have to find time for these one on ones. Now how you do them and how often, really depends on the level of the employee, the needs and things like that. I think best practices are at least once a month you sit down and have anywhere from a 30 minute to one hour conversation.

And we’ll get into maybe a little bit more set up sort of post break. But it should be a two-way conversation. This isn’t just the manager coming in and pouring a bunch of content into the employees’ head, this is a two-way conversation.

Lee: Which unfortunately happens a lot and the employee walks away from that experience the worse for the wear.

Jeff: Yeah so what I’m going to kick off next time with is a little bit talk about the motivating gauge pyramid that we like to talk about, and about how do you set some clear expectations. What I know is that I want to recap this section. Employees join because of the company’s reputation, advancement opportunities, then the job and the manager.

Often when they meet the manager I just call the call centers, a lot of times they didn’t know the manager. They leave in the exact opposite order though. They leave because of the relationship, with the manager then occasionally job, almost never is the company though. So that’s for us to remember that behind that closed door it’s our job to be able to retain the folks.

So we’re right up against a break. So behind the close door is some great words from our sponsors of the show. So we will be right back within two minutes. See you soon.


Jeff: Welcome back. Hey it’s Jeff Smith here and I’m with Lee Hubert. Lee and I have been talking about what happens behind the manager’s closed door. And we’re having a very intriguing conversation about the kind of do’s and don’ts behind the closed door, and the importance of manager-employee conversations happening behind that closed door.

So as I alluded to earlier and talked about a little bit later, we’ll hit some time management next week. And then in two weeks will be having Jon Hagmaier on the show. Jon Hagmaier actually is the former CEO of Interactive Achievement. And Jon will also be sharing a lot of his best practices from behind the closed door, and thoughts and things like that. So stay tuned for that.

In the meantime what I want to hit is something that at Voltage we call it the Motivate and Engage Pyramid. And I’ll just walk you through that quickly and then Lee is going to pick up on some of the best practices from one on ones that we’ve seen. The reason I like this is our goal often is behind the closed door, we’re trying to find out how do we help employees be as motivated, engaged and retain that employee?

We want them there and what them with us. So for the leader, one of the things that we should be doing a good job of is making sure that the employees understand their core expectations, that they have the tools and resources to do the job, and they have an understanding for why their work is important.

So one of the first things they can do behind the closed doors just make sure that’s happening. Do they understand expectations, their role, and do they have the tools for the job? Makes sense to you Lee?

Lee: And a lot of times is sometimes people have negative anticipation.

Jeff: Yeah it’s like coming to the principal’s office or something.

Lee: Yeah or behind the HR door for that matter. It’s Friday, at three o’clock, it’s HR, “Hey can you come on down to HR and join us for a few minutes?” and all of a sudden their mind goes to those dark places; should I bring a box? It’s like 99% of the time the answer is no.

But I like your point about best practices and you’re talking about frequency. And for managers who haven’t really had to immerse themselves in this or got promoted or elevated to a position, be taken this is all good stuff because this is a prime year for you. The frequency I like least once a quarter preferably once a month.

Jeff: And I say if it’s a new hire, daily. Until they’re settled in, normally the first 90 days, I think the first 30 it’s kind of let’s do the first week or two, it’s daily.. And then for the first 90 though it should probably be weekly and then you must sliding into little further out.

Let me finish up this model too. So as we move up we got good expectations. Now to your point we got to do some recognition. Are they doing the right things? Reinforce the right behaviors, more so at five to one; five positive for every one negative. So are we saying, these are the behaviors that we need, and the more specific the better.

If we need some developmental feedback, throw that in as well. Then as people are having the conversation, give them some ownership. They’re brilliant and they’re smart, you hired smart people.

Lee: Oh but I’m a rescuer I want to dive in and do the work because I think I have to.

Jeff: Save the rescuer for Halloween, that’s a Halloween costume. Behind this closed door we are the coach so grab your whistle, be a co-creator.

This is giving them some ownership, giving them some say on how they’re going to do it. Then the top of the pyramid is now, let’s talk about their career growth feedback. If you go to that first, I’m not ready we haven’t built up the trust.

So what I’d say is, be having those kind of conversations behind the closed door right. So Lee before the break you were really diving into really successful one on ones. But there are different kinds of one on ones. Let’s walk through maybe some of the variety of one on ones that happen.

Lee: I like your model where you mentioned the word trust, and there’s a trust bridge behind the closed door, that is built. So if people have negative anticipation to my point, you’re being called to the door for a reason right. And are you filling your head with negative anticipation, not sure.

But it might be for skill development, it might be for performance recognition, you’ve done something well. God forbid you have positive anticipation that you’re going to be recognized, “I just want to tell you personally thank you before I tell the rest of the organization what a great job you’re doing.” When’s the last time you heard that behind the closed door?

Jeff: Yeah let me get on that real quick, well turn backwards a bit. We’re talking about behind the closed door but these things can happen out in the areas too. Lee and I both worked in healthcare and worked in a laboratory. Pull up aside on the bench for a few minutes and just have a conversation.

These one on ones, the deeper ones where we’re talking about development and things like that probably should be behind closed door. But to pull up and just say, “Hey I just want to check in with you,” it can be a five-minute conversation.

They can go a long way that might be a nice time for some recognition, it can be a touch base. So know that they don’t all have to happen behind closed doors. They can be no at a Dairy Queen, and go across the street and have a nice time.

Lee: And understand that whoever’s leading the team, their internal brand, what the employee experiences from that person is foundational. So if I have that I use my words again the negative anticipation, you pretend to lead I’ll pretend to follow. We’ll come here and have this exercise right.

And that’s what a lot of people view these things at. .I view it as exactly the opposite and so many people miss this opportunity. For example you mentioned development. If I do one on ones well, I’m interested to know what’s going on in your world. Now I might have asked lots of detailed personal questions, not really.

Jeff: Right.

Lee: We had this discussion before, but I do want to know what you aspire to. That’s a different discussion than, okay you’re coming here to get beat up again right. Now I also want to know here’s our thought about performance and when we do this one on one well, the performance reviews happen by themselves it’s a foregone conclusion. It’s not this fire drill at midyear or at the end of the year.

Jeff: So the development conversations I will teach the model real quick if you will tell me how often we should be doing it. Right so here’s the model; I use the GROW Model. So for the folks out there who want to take a note this is probably a good time to do it. GROW stands for: G is for Goal.

What’s the goal? What are you trying to accomplish? Again it might be that you want to get a Master’s. How quickly? Because in my situation I’ve got four kids between the ages 10 and 17, getting a masters right now, luckily I already have one.

Lee: Yeah no drama there.

Jeff: But getting another one today would be a little harder. So the reality would be like okay, it’s probably not going to be a two-year process. It’s probably going to be, and that’s the O. and that’s the Options. And then the W is What’s next. What’s the next I need to do?

So if I was looking at getting my masters and we’re in this coaching scenario, so my goal is getting a masters site, so I can be ready for upward mobility. Reality is four kids, can probably afford to pay for some, I should probably look at some online options, part-time options, what’s next?

Well let me go do some research. That could be a great meeting that Lee and I had a developmental conversation. So Lee, how often should I as a manager be having that developmental conversation with my employees?

Lee: The short answer is as often as necessary.

And I’m falling off my chair that the boss is asking me what do I aspire to become. A lot of time that just doesn’t happen.

Jeff: Sure.

Lee: Don’t forget, that some organizations have tuition benefits. When I was in large healthcare organizations as an HR authority, there are people who would be loving the fact that you know what; you want to complete an undergraduate advanced degree or certification, whatever the case may be and we’ll help you pay for it.

And as to your point, working adults and working professional people, a lot of times they don’t have that luxury. Sometimes it’s a funding issue too. So there’s a lot of different ways to skin the cat. And to my earlier point, when you do these things well, remember you’re building team. And I like the GROW Model and I like the internal-I use the word equity.

Jeff: So what I hear is we should do it as often as needed, probably at least once a quarter. And then I always call it a 50/50 contract. It’s we own about 51%. Our job is to make sure that time happens and we set it up. It’s the employees’ though they own their development. Right it’s our job to find opportunities. Well this is all well and good but I can hear some people who’re kind of well listeners like, “Well I can handle those conversations.”

What I’d offer is that truly most don’t though because they get so busy.

Lee: Right.

Jeff: They don’t get to those conversations. So really when you want to start with that is, those are the ones they don’t get to. Unfortunately though the one most people probably want to hear about is what about that employees that underperforming, and I need to have the talk.

Lee: Let me transition to that.

Jeff: Yeah please.

Lee: That is a hanging curveball.

I spoke to somebody earlier today that I was coaching who was on their way to the World Series tonight.

Jeff: Oh fantastic, awesome.

Lee: They were going to Cleveland. So anyhow two things that you made me think about. When you think about okay there is the under performer, the management tends to spend a disproportionate amount of time with underperformers.

I think the answer is no and they have to with intentionality do that. Then you get the other things that are formal discipline, or drama and let me just touch on that. And after the break I’m sure we’ll have a deeper dive in that. I think what the manager says behind the closed door is important, and almost more important is what they don’t say or what they’re not heard to say.

So I’ve heard you say this I’ve experienced it, I’ve done it myself many times. There’s an element of a crucial conversation here. People may be defensive, they may not, they may have that negative anticipation that I was alluding to. When you get to that point it’s like okay let me tell you why we’re here.

Jeff: Okay yeah.

Lee: And let me tell you why we’re not here. Because I’ve had people walking behind my closed door just shaking like a leaf and you think oh my God the sky is fall. So I discern that right away. But you’re not hearing me say you’re not respected, you’re not hearing me say your talents and abilities aren’t valued.

You’re not hearing me say that you’re not valued as a contributor on the team or the organization. And it just may get to the point we say, “Well okay then what are you saying?” so that’s a good thing and it keeps you on track and keeps you completely to that place.

So a lot of people to your point, it’s really nice to talk about developing people and that’s all love godmother apple pie okay. What happens when the tougher, more crucial, more difficult conversation or person or group of people for that matter? I happen to like the crucial conversations model because it gives us a good track to run on.

Jeff: Good and we’ll pick up on that. So for me it’s well like what Lee is saying is something I do myself. I’m just very honest. When people come in, “Hey this conversation might be a hard conversation, so let’s talk about what we’re going to talk about.” I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I’m not going to sort of beat around the bush.

I would say earlier in my career I’ll go all the back to our first episode, I’m a high I, I want people to like me. Earlier in my career I wanted people to be my friend, I wanted people to like me. I probably was very vague with feedback. I’m still working on it, I’m still not perfect at this. But I’m much better at saying, “Hey, do this, don’t do that.”

And this is the domain we’re talking about: “Hey you’re still doing really nice work over here.” So part of what’s happening behind the closed door is what Lee was leading to is when you’re going to have a hard conversation, let’s get right to it, say the hard conversation. Now that doesn’t mean that you’re not a valued loyal employee.

Or if you don’t improve we only have 90 days for you to still be an employee of XYZ organization. Be very honest and direct with that. So if I was to give one of sort of advice I mean going out of this part, is be honest transparent and direct. And tell them the rest of the story, what is it that they do well if that’s part of the conversation so that they know.

Lee: Honest, transparent and direct I like that.

Jeff: It could be a model one day.

Lee: It is OTD.

Jeff: OTD there you go, or maybe DOT. We’ll make it a dot. So Lee this has been a great conversation. What I want to do on the other side of the break is we’ll pick up a little bit on some crucial conversations. In the meantime listeners, we’ve been having a great time talking to you. It’s time for another break we’ll talk to you in two.


Jeff: Welcome back. It’s Jeff Smith with Lee Hubert and we have been Behind the Manager’s Closed Door. So before the break we were talking about some of the disciplinarian conversations. A lot of times, those are the conversations where it might be 90 days up or out or we really need to see significant improvement.

And we’re just being very honest with them. Lee I know you like the book and the work around crucial conversations. So maybe we can pick up on how do you as a manager use the crucial conversations and how’s that applied to the managers that are on the line; how could they use that tool itself?

Lee: It’s a great tool and it’s applied many different ways. When you think about, you’re using the easy button before.

Jeff: Yeah.

Lee: I want to rescue people and I want people to like me. And there’s managers out there whose heads are nodding going, “Yeah okay I’ve been there done that or I’m still there,” right. So okay, well we want to manage people and we want to do it with integrity and we want to manage the whole person. And that does not mean you withhold direct feedback, the honest, transparent, direct feedback the HTD we talked about.

Jeff: It was the DOT.

Lee: Whatever, OCDHT it’s one of those. So when you think about it, you think about it this way; crucial conversations give you a very nice track to run on. It allows you to have the right conversation, for the right reasons without chickening out because what happens a lot of times is people chicken out.

And then people leave that experience the worse for wear, their mindset is, “Well if there was a problem somebody would have told me about it, so I must be doing okay.” And the reality a lot of times is very different from that.

Jeff: I’m laughing and my coaching session this morning was a person that is a client we both work at. But I coach the CEO and this is one level below. And basically they said, “Around here it’s no news means good news.” So they just never know.

And I said, “Well how do you know you’re performing?” and they were like, “We really don’t.” So we’re working on trying to get that to the point where folks have a better sense, because again the no news is like, does it mean that because I come to work every day and show up that that’s what I’m doing right or?

Let: Oh that’s obviously good news, there’s nothing going wrong there right.

Jeff: So we’d say the more specific the feedback then the better chances that you’ll be successful. So I know sometimes folks want to have some tools so crucial conversation is a really good resource to help you in these conversations. Another one is “Thanks for Your Feedback”, it’s a good one at trying to practice feedback.

And understand that there are really three different types of feedback. There’s everything from appreciation, to coaching, to evaluation. So you should be thinking about before you have a conversation behind that door is, what am I doing? Is my goal here to be an appreciation? Is this a coaching conversation of positive or developmental or is this an evaluation time? Is this the performance metrics right?

Lee: Is it about the performance? Right, just a short time ago you and Jennifer were, Roanoke were talking about coaching for peak performance.

So there are specific criteria for each and crucial is a good track. And it’s also what I call a join up, we have different words for it, but it’s what happens when there’s conflict resolution.

Jeff: Yeah that’s what happens.

Lee: There are times on a team statistically there’s people out there who’re going to have conflict.

Jeff: What?

Lee: Yeah it’s there and it’s ugly. And what happens is this; so sometimes managers are well equipped to deal with it, other times they’re not and other times disillusion goes begging. So really here’s what happens. The team is watching. Your little work family is watching. And you could almost hear the words.

Remember at the onset we talked about retention, esprit de corps, engagement, all these positive things. If these conversations aren’t happening behind the manager’s closed-door you’re absolutely paying the price.

Jeff: So let me understand. So we got two people in conflict on the team. Let’s say I’ve eight, 10-person team. I got two people on the team that’s conflict.

Lee: Well and there are times that managers will say and I understand this point of view to a degree. You’re professionals I’m paying you to do a job, you need to be. Don’t bring me your drama, you figure it out. And okay that has its place.

Jeff: Can you say no drama mama?

Lee: Save the drama for your mama, mama don’t work or maybe she does. So what’s going to happen is the manager needs just like a hole in the head like I said. So the people may start jumping off the team, they may start coming to you privately and saying, “Hey are you aware of that?” and then it builds right.

Jeff: Yeah.

Lee: And to your point about just dealing with it direct and head on. That doesn’t mean you go and indict somebody, doesn’t mean to disrespect somebody. But here’s what I’ve done to passing the joint at conflict sessions. Usually if I’m facilitating or I’ve trained the managers to do this, we’ll get the two people who’re the protagonists in the room.

Jeff: Sure.

Lee: So you’ll hear things and sometimes the discussions can get quite animated, even heated. And that falls back under that crucial umbrella, and when that does, there’s times it’s appropriate to shut it down or not.

But don’t walk away from it. The people need to understand this is going to take place. So once they verbalize and you verbalize, the boss is the closer. Okay now let me tell you what I as your leader and manager here need from the both of you.

Jeff: Right.

Lee: And there should be no misunderstanding that. Now think of this for a second. This is a shot across the ball without formally dropping a hammer on the side.

They’re being this is a sign of great respect. Now there are managers who’re just afraid to do this, and they’re just not equipped to do this. So I make a point to tell people behind the manager’s door, understand what’s taking place here.

Your manager is respecting you and you’re getting the benefit of the communication without necessarily the formal hammer being dropped. But now understand as the closing you should not be surprised if you can’t own this, because then you are going to head for the informal process.

Jeff: Okay so let me recap. So it’s the manager’s job to handle the conflict.

Lee: Yes it is.

Jeff: Hopefully it’s sometimes you want them to deal with it on their own but often they’re going to need help. So a savvy manager is going to pull them in and we’re going to go through a conversation, I often use the structural tension model you like crucial conversation. What’s important is that you plan for it. Right so don’t just do this on the fly.

So one of the things I’d say is use a peer behind that closed door, another manager or a human resource professional. And get prepared because when those two folks come in, you don’t want to have to be floundering you want to have a plan.

Lee: Or you don’t want to do it on Friday afternoon at five minutes to five or Monday if you’re frazzled running to your 13th meeting.

Jeff: Yeah exactly.

Lee: Oh I understand.

Jeff: Yeah so it’s going to be, what are the desired outcomes? Desired outcome is that we have a working productive relationship. You don’t have to be best friends and you don’t have to like each other, but working productive relationship. Current reality is X, here’s what I’m seeing.

Now tell me what your strengths are, tell me what your desires are, what are your needs okay. And the person the same thing, what are the barriers, great; how do we use our strengths to overcome those barriers? Now, what are the baby steps? Tell me one or two things that we’re going to do.

Lee: I love it.

Jeff: Right you can’t imagine that it’s just going to get better and perfect. So let’s say this was Tuesday, by Thursday, I’m stopping by and checking in with them. I’m going to follow up the next week. And I’m going to tell them, “Hey I’ve really appreciated you guys were both in the last staff meeting together and I saw how built on each other and you didn’t tear at each other. That is a fantastic start.”

Lee: Yeah I’m going to follow to that. I mean two things here like I’ll say here’s the communication trail, here’s the legacy trail, we’re going to break that. Right it stops today, so there’s no misunderstanding that this is gone as of today. Here’s the new communication trail that we’re all going to share and these are the things that are going to be precedent in that including to your point the accountability stuff.

We’ll get manager or the facilitator to say, “Here are the expectations, there can be no misunderstanding it.” And depending on how frequently they want to follow up with these people, one-on-one behind the manager’s closed door give them the positive feedback or the continuing coaching they need to stay on that track.

Jeff: Be prepared, right, so these are things that you should probably think ahead, be able to have what do hope to accomplish. I always ask, what’s our desired outcome. What’s it that you’re hoping to cover?

Really is it fully my meeting? It’s really to use Lee’s words earlier it’s a co-created agenda. Like we’re going to do this together. So don’t just come in and have this list of things that you’re going to demand from your employee. This should be co-created. And you have no idea what else has been happening for the last week or month or quarter.

They may have been waiting for this and talking to their significant other the night before and saying, “I can’t wait to see the boss, there’s like three things I want to get covered.” And then if you come in and you dictate the agenda and you go boom, boom, boom and then they go home that night, and the significant other says, “So, honey how did it go today?” “I don’t know they shut it down and they never even asked, they didn’t seem curious.”

Lee: That happens so often what you just said.

Jeff: And what does that lead to? Let me just ahead and check out was on Indeed or let’s see what’s happening on LinkedIn tonight.

Lee: Yeah hello. They got one foot out the door it’s the bad turnover, if I’m a meritorious person, got lots of talents you tell me I do it and that’s a good thing, I got one foot out the door.

If you shut me down with a formal agenda it happens way too often.

Jeff: Yeah I think you can have things that you always want cover, so maybe it’s pipeline or it’s the project or things like that. But it should be a co-created agenda at the frontend. A couple of things just I mean these are basic but we need to talk about it, not be looking at your phone the whole time. Yeah I mean I can understand.

Lee: You mean I can’t text while I’m having this really deep and meaningful discussion with you?

Jeff: Exactly. So there’s another one.

Look eye to eye at each other. If you can be able to be in a place where you can sit side-by-side, and get that desk removed, maybe in formal discipline you might want that blah, blah, blah.

But in general most of our conversations are going to be good conversations. So being able to be closer and even just close enough that you can work together, regularly scheduled like we talked about. There’s also a sense of a recap at end. So when I heard you say the next couple of steps are x and y.

Lee: Understanding.

Jeff: So you as the manager, you should not be walking away with each one of these one on ones with very much to do. It really should be the other person. You might have a follow-up, or you need to drop an email or contact somebody.

But it’s really the employee should be the one walking away with their own development stuff, touching base on projects and figuring out things. Finally there are going to be interruptions but try to limit them. But what you can do to your team is say, “Hey you know I’m going to be having these regularly scheduled one on ones and that’s why the door is going to be closed.”

Because sometimes people were nervous, oh God the boss is around. So if you can set it up with your team, “Hey the reason the door is going to be, is resource was shot one on ones. I’m going to be offering feedback.

Lee: Office hours.

Jeff: That’s right, office hours. That way, when you have time it can be uninterrupted so hopefully that’ll cut down some interruptions. So we got about a minute in this section, any recap from you?

Lee: Yeah when you look at two things; sometimes in organizations or teams there’s the problem that never gets solved.

It just goes on and on and on. And largely the reason it goes on and on and on is because what should be taken behind the closed door hasn’t.

Jeff: Yeah.

Lee: It hasn’t.

Jeff: So we got to bring it behind the closed door sometime.

Lee: Hello and to finish off a point about conflict resolution, there are times when those discussions can be I’ll call it the squirm factor. They’re very uncomfortable, people squirm and managers it’s not a happy, easy, it’s difficult sometimes. If you’re the 1% of the managers who enjoy these things okay there’s a DSM-V thing out there for you.

Jeff: I have no idea what a DSM-V but we’ll go with that.

Lee: Oh there you go. So thank you Lee. It’s time for another break, so we’ll come back and we’ll do the wrap up of the show, give you some practical tips on the way out the door. We’ll see you in two minutes.


Jeff: Welcome back. I’ve been working today with Lee Hubert from Voltage Leadership Consulting, and we have been talking about Behind the Manager’s Closed Door. It has been a really interesting conversation, hopefully some practical tips maybe some confidence building about how do you have the conversations. One point I’d just like to hit on that Lee addressed in the last topic.

We often only think about the closed door for the bad discussions. And there are about 80% of the ones there then do seem like stress and fear and that kind of stuff. But if that’s the conversation you have the most, we’re screwing up. The conversation really you should be having is 80% of the time you should be spending with your best people; I call it re-recruiting your superstars.

Tell them why they’re so good in the first place. So these things should be joyful. So if you find yourself in a dreading space, I would say you’re probably not managing your folks up or out quick enough. And you should be spending more time with those top stars. So I just want to hit on that because that’s really important.

Lee: I used the phrase negative anticipation and there’s something to this right. I sometimes will talk about the manager, the team lead being responsible for setting the team’s culture. And we’ve done this many different places as you know in healthcare and finance and technology and a lot healthcare clients of late where we’ll have people answer these questions.

This is the manager talking to the team, complete this sentence; our team exists to fill in the blank. And after about four or five or six answers it all starts to sound the same. But the first four or five are pretty good. And then the manager tweaks that to say, “Okay, I understand, now let’s talk about where we’re going.” That’s the team vision statement.

“We aspire to be blank. I’m listening.” And the team owns that, and that’s beneficial for multiple reasons. Then you get to the third thing is the team values, basically the code of conduct. What are the behaviors that support our team’s mission and vision?

And things that I see or the organization sees that are contrary to that don’t be surprised, you should expect that me as your leader I’m going to manage that because we’re successful. There’s something good about being part of a winning team.

Jeff: Yeah so I think that’s important to understand that a big part of what we do is also in the team, and that’s behind the manager’s closed door. If you got a big enough office you can do it behind the wardrobe, it’s not a closed door or those management doors; door number one, door number two in order of seniority.

So what I’d say there is learning how to run an effective team meeting we’re going to hit on that into some more detail in a few weeks. So this is sort of a preview of it. But what I’d say is making sure that you’ve got a team vision and mission statement is critical, or the values yeah they can come from the team great discussion.

Lee: Oh something right.

Jeff: Not only that she takes it a step further, in her one on ones, she shows them. So one of those is connected to create. So it’s about how do you work with other people around the organization to create innovation, create new ideas? So she does a great job of sort of saying, “Tell me an example where you connect to create.”

So behind that closed door in the team meeting, you’ve got this chance to reinforce your values that will limit the conflict. But also in your one-on-ones tying those values back for the organization or your team and connecting them back to the vision and mission of your team, and what’s your purpose and goals.

Oh my gosh, if you can do that, then I’m likely not to take the phone call and I’m likely not to get on LinkedIn I’m going to go home and tell my significant other, “Wow it’s not that every day is perfect but we have good days. Understand why I’m working on while I’m working on it. I feel aligned with my manager with my team. I see unicorns and butterflies- okay no, it’s not like that but life is good.

Lee: Well you said two important things; number one and my point is the manager owns that, whether it’s behind the closed door, in a public culture the bigger audience. And the second thing is people understand. That speaks volumes, there’s a rationale. A lot of times what happens with managers is their team doesn’t understand.

They’re ordered to do something in maybe command-and-control mode, and there’s no rationale behind it. And a lot of times people don’t take to that very well. Sometimes it doesn’t matter but I’ve heard the words before in teams and one on ones where they say, “We’re not three year olds. Give me a rational, explain to me why we’re doing this.” And the manager owns that. We have something we call the Outward Mindset and I know you.

Jeff: Yeah from the Arbinger Institute.

Lee: I mean I know you use it several times on diamond and what now the point is this; it’s not necessarily about me. It’s about who we’re serving, and were we servicing- are you a servant-leader, who are you serving? And to my point, why does this team exist? Where are we going and what are the behaviors that support that?

Jeff: Probably in a couple of months we’re going to have the authors from the book, from the folks that are certified in that. So it’s called The Outward Mindset from the Arbinger Institute and it’s Seeing Beyond Ourselves. It’s a great example of getting some clarity on goals that our customers have, that our peers have, our direct reports our managers have.

So I’d also maybe wrap up on that point is don’t forget that we’re also the customers. It’s our job to be served from they’re supposed to be there the employees to help do the things that we’re supposed be working on. So don’t lose track of, hey part of this is making sure that your needs are being met.

We’ve talked about meeting the needs of employees. But it’s also, are you getting what you need? Are you getting the feedback that you need? Are the projects moving along? So don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and make sure that your needs are being met.

Lee: And that’s really a great point, a lot of managers don’t do that. They want to be the easy button.

Jeff: Right.

Lee: And I tell you my final thought for today is; don’t be the manager that people quit.

Jeff: Right, don’t be a manager people quit just don’t do it.

Lee: Just say no.

Jeff: Just say no to that. Okay and it’s election season, we’re almost done, it sounds like election from the 1980s or something in the US. So a few wrap up points here; predictable and periodic meaningful one on ones. You maybe can’t do it every week but from time to time, having regularly scheduled office hours.

When you’re in there making, sure that you’re having the conversation about clear expectations, you’re doing some recognition, you have a vine development, you’re giving feedback. I know this is crazy but you’re present. I mean you’re actually present. It’s not good enough just to have…

Lee: That’s crazy.

Jeff: Your bottom in the seat.

Lee: I don’t know about that, I have to be texting or distracted somehow.

Jeff: Yeah, this is keeping your eyeballs together. You are not texting, or answering a bunch of email times. I can’t tell you the number of times I hear from people that that’s what they’re doing. I’d also offer that be curious about the person sitting across from you. To your point, we don’t have to have a deep dive into everything personal.

But we should probably know that they have kids and the names of their kids and what they care about outside of work, so they can at least understand that and connect a little bit. Then I think it’s that really understanding manager interruptions so there aren’t so many of those. And I know you like this, the integrity you like Lincoln on leadership. You want to talk about that one for a second?

Lee: Sure Lincoln was one of my favorite models in leadership. And I’d done this presentation to senior leadership executive groups a lot of different places. Lincoln was masterful, he knew how to manage people, he knew to our earlier point what to say and what not to say. He had a habit of writing down, to your point, feedback about a person or a letter he was going to deliver.

But just determined that you know what, I don’t think this person can hear that. But it was still cathartic for him because he’s the leader and he had some tough situations. So relatively speaking your circumstances aren’t in Lincoln territory.

Jeff: Thank you Lee. It’s been great working with you again. We will be back next week. We’re going to be coming and talking about time management, some best practices so that you can have these conversations. So we’ll be sharing best practices on that. In the upcoming weeks again we’ll have Jon Hagmaier, he’s the former CEO of Interactive Achievement.

And he’ll be talking about lessons learned. So look forward to joining you. Thanks again for listening today. You can reach me at area code 540-798-1963. You can also email me at jeff@voltageleadership.com our website is www.voltageleadership.com you can like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership.

You can connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting or Lee Hubert@ Voltage Leadership Consulting. And follow me at twitter @VoltageLeaders. I hope you had a fantastic week and we’re looking forward to seeing you again next week only Illuminating Leadership. Have an awesome week. Bye now.