I am extremely fortunate to have started at BFO very early on and helped build one of the smartest, creative SEO teams around. With so much talent and passion in one team, there are sure to be challenges and creative differences.
When I recall moments when our team was at their best, we could have what I call “healthy” confrontation. Most of the time, we were all quite chummy, talking constantly and collaborating effectively on projects. There were also moments when each of us wanted to bash each other with clubs like something out of The Untouchables.
Confrontation is quite a polar topic. On one end, there are workplace environments in which confrontation is constant, volatile and toxic. On the other end, some people avoid confrontation at all costs, letting issues fester and leaving them to lurk in the shadows. Neither approach is beneficial to the people involved. Hostile confrontation will weaken your team, and avoiding confrontation entirely will leave real issues unresolved.
When things got tough, I encouraged people to speak their minds and I helped maintain objectivity. Sometimes this was with team members individually, but many times it was during our team meetings. [ctt template=”1″ link=”dV8ph” via=”yes” ]When your team speaks up about issues & work out accountability challenges, great things happen.[/ctt]
Of course, there were many awkward meetings along the way. Most people don’t enjoy confrontation because it can be uncomfortable at first. But once you’re able to get to the root of an issue and people trust that whatever comes up won’t result in their being ostracized for having a different opinion or making a mistake, healthy confrontation can be accomplished.
So what about clients? Is the client always right, or are there times when healthy confrontation might improve relationships and foster success? Obviously, it’s important to keep clients happy and projects moving forward, but if there are differences in opinion or conflicts, healthy confrontation can build trust and help strengthen the relationship.
I’m reminded of a story where one of our team members had a very challenging and demanding client. The client was under extreme pressure to bring fast results and brought that pressure into the relationship. At first, it was incredibly difficult for the BFO team member or anyone else to service this client adequately. It reached a point that since the quality of work was being affected, it was important to confront the client to resolve the issue. Since they went about it in a healthy way, the result was a dramatic positive change in the relationship between the individual and the client, as well as the business relationship between BFO and the client. Ultimately bringing what the client needed most – results.
Tips for Healthy Confrontation
Here are some tips I try to stick to when paving the road toward healthy confrontation:
- Acknowledge emotion and attempt to quell emotions (beyond passion). When used the appropriately, coming from a place of passion is a fantastic way to have a healthy confrontation. Just avoid letting the conversation turn defensive or hostile.
- Use the Dragnet approach. Stick to “just the facts,” avoiding accusatory “you” statements. Focus on the issues and behaviors themselves, not the person.
- Serve up a compliment sandwich: Appreciation, Challenge, Appreciation. Begin and end with something positive, with your issue sandwiched in the middle.
- Repeat the concern. Repeat back what you understand the issue or conflict to be before sharing feedback or giving any recommendations. This helps the other person know you’re receptive to what they’re saying.
It’s easy to think of confrontation as hostile, but when handled with empathy and appreciation, confrontation can be fruitful for everyone involved.[ctt template=”1″ link=”914SO” via=”no” ]Feeling like your #DigitalAgency is getting complacent & letting you run the show? @Dan_Reno says…[/ctt]
Healthy confrontation starts with you! It requires a great deal of introspection, self-control and patience above all else. Having healthy confrontation is not about how people approach you; it’s about how you approach or respond to them. Keep that in mind and you might be surprised what you can accomplish with others.
Feeling like your agency is getting too complacent and letting you run the show? Let’s talk – we’re not afraid to tell you like we see it.
Learn more about healthy work relationships with our guide, The Marketing Director’s Guide to Successful Agency Relationships.