When you are in conflict- or crisis-mode, the tendency is to get emotionally charged and that sometimes leads to folks taking actions that are unhealthy for the business.
Here are four steps that I adopted from the University of Maryland’s Leadership Program to deal with communicating during crisis or conflict:
1) Separate the People from the Problem
A good communication about conflict should focus on the underlying problem (not the person).
” We just discovered that we did not ship out products to certain customers over the last 10 days and now sales will be down 16% this month” (good)
“George (in Shipping) slipped up and forgot to confirm that our shipping facility received our go-ahead to ship products out this month…and our sales are plummeting” (bad)
If you indeed do have a person-problem, then deal with the problem as a relationship problem by talking directly to the person you have a problem with (i.e. George)
2) Generate a Variety of Possible Solutions before Deciding What to Do
Don’t assume there is just one solution.
“After discussing this with all of you, we have two potential solutions:
And it doesn’t have to be your solution versus your team’s solution.
3) Insist That Results Be Based On Some Objective Standard.
That way, you and your team can measure how you get out of the crisis/conflict.
And if you’re involved in a conflict and feeling angry about it, this Chinese Proverb has proven invaluable to many people:
“Never write when you’re angry.”
It’s better to pause, collect your thoughts first and even talk to a colleague if you can…then start writing when you’re more calm.
Your communication will now be more effective.
If you’re like me, you craft email messages just about every day.
I’m amazed at how many poorly-written emails I see on a regular basis (and some I don’t see clearly because they’re confusing).
Here are some basic rules I try to use for every message: (I’m using the example of a hypothetical partnership with Google as the topic at hand):
1) Clear Subject Line
The purpose of the subject line is to be clear about the subject (duh) and to get the recipient to open it (if relevant to them).
Examples (using the hypothetical Google partnership topic):
“Google Partnership” (Good)
“Google Partnership Closed: Next Steps” (Better)
“Google Partnership: Your Input Needed” (Best)
2) The “Door Opener”
The opening sentence or two of the actual message should be crystal clear about what you the you want from the recipent(s).
“I would like your thoughts on section 5 of the attached contract for our Google Partnership.”
” We closed the Google partnership today — way to go, team!”
“I just got off the phone with Larry and Sergey about our deal; here are our next steps.”
3) The “Meat” of the Message
The next part of your message should include any important data or other information necessary for the recipient to be aware of.
“Attached is the language in Section 5. Are you comfortable with payment terms described in it?”
“Now that the Google partnership is closed, would you please set up the kick-off call with Sergey and Larry to get things going!?”
4) The Closer
You should close with what action you’d like the recipient to take and any timing if applicable.
“I’d appreciate your input by Friday as I have a Monday morning meeting with Google.”
“Thank you for your work on closing the Google Deal. Please put it in your calendar for July 15th to review its performance.”
“Please make sure to alert our Finance team to expect the Google wire transfer by Monday at 11am.”
If you follow these four steps for your email communication, you’ll speed things along and face fewer unpleasant surprises.
I first heard about the concept of being a “go-giver” from Bob Burg in a book he wrote called Winning Without Intimidation; he later made the phrase more popular by writing Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea.
I used the Go-Giver phrase, which is corny but good, in a speech I made to entrepreneurs a few years back.
From that speech, and others, here are seven tips to being a better networker or go-giver:
1) Giving is Attractive — “No matter what your profession, if you can give increase of life to others and make them sensible [i.e., “aware”] of this gift, they will be attracted to you, and you will get rich.” Wallace D. Wattles from The Science of Getting Rich …
I get asked about how to run effective meetings all the time. As I wrote about in my Daily Huddle Article, how you run meetings has a material effect on your business.
I believe that the difference between a dull meeting and an amazing meeting is how you organize it.
I originally heard about one meetings format used by a consultant to a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary and I think it works just great.
It’s called G.A.P and it stands for Goal, Agenda and Preparation.
I believe every meeting should have all three!
The goal, or purpose, of the meeting needs to be stated upfront. A good way to remember what goes into a goal (for meetings or anything else) is that it should be a SMART Goal as in:
S = The goal should be Specific
M = The goal should be Measureable
A = The goal should be Achievable
R = The goal should be Relevant
T = The goal should be Timely (it should be reachable by the time the meeting ends)
That gets you off to the right start to a SMART meeting!
When you hold a meeting, you need to have an agenda…even if the agenda is to have no agenda. Huh?
What I’m saying is that you as the meeting organizer need to state how the attendees are going to use the time at the meeting. The agenda could be something as simple as:
Or, if you’re not going to have something so structured, then state that the agenda is:
A key to most meetings is preparation (by you the meeting organizer and by the attendees).
So, if you call a meeting, tell the attendees what they need to do to prepare.
When they join the meeting, should they have already reviewed a spreadsheet that you sent out? Do they need to have collected information from someone inside or outside the company?
Tell them how to prepare…if there’s no advanced preparation then I like to just say: “No Preparation…Just Bring Your Brain.”
If you use online calendars to schedule meetings, you should put the entire Goal, Agenda and Preparation (GAP) within your calendar invitation.
Follow GAP and you’ll have better meetings.
Note: You may have heard of another “GAP” used in business: the GAP Analysis strategic planning tool. Read How to Do A Gap Analysis for more on this valuable tool.
I’ve had to fire or let go a handful of people in my career. Firing someone can be tough, but if you follow these guidlines you should do just fine.
Here are my learnings:
Make The Decision Fast
The adage, “Fire Fast, Hire Slowly” is very true.
On the firing side, I have never regretted firing someone who was a consistent problem. On the flip side, I have often regretted moving too slowly on firing someone.
If your gut tells you that a person isn’t working out, you owe it to your business and the employee in question to move fast.
Clarify The Reason You’re Firing Them
You need to identify the reason that you’re firing your employee (for yourself first; and then later to explain to the employee). It could be for performance..or it could be that they did not fit into your culture.
Whatever the case, have it well-thought out for yourself and have specifics (examples or data) to back you up.
Document The Reason You’re Firing Them
You should make sure that you or the hiring manager document the reasons for the termination before the actual firing.
The most common way to do this is in a performance review (also called a Performance Appraisal) in which you share your feedback with the employee in question.
I should write an entire article on Performance Reviews…but in the meantime, check out Performance Appraisal for more background.
The most important point is that the employee should not be surprised that they are not working out…and the details of this should be documented so that if the terminated employee ever tries to to sue you for Wrongful Termination, you will have written details to show a hudge.
Determine Their Last Day
Now that you’ve decided to be decisive (good for you!), you should determine when you’d like the person to leave.
If the person you’re firing has done something crooked, you may be choosing for their last day to be immediate.
In most cases, the person you’re firing is just not performing to your standards or is not a good fit with your culture or values. In that case, I try to be consistent with all employees by using a standard amount of notice (2 weeks, 30 days, 2 months, etc.); though this may vary based on how long they’ve been with you or what their seniority is.
If you don’t have a standard, then use your next firing to determine your standard (so that this is easier on you in the future!).
If your company is small, like many I’ve worked in, it’s ok for you to learn as you go!
Determine Their Final Deliverables
Figure out exactly what you need from them between the time you fire them and their last day.
I prefer to make this list a fairly short list of deliverables to allow the fired employee to have some extra time to search for a job.
Determine Their Severance (if any)
Next you need to determine what severance payment if any you will pay them.
Again, this should be consistent where possible. There should be a minimum severance package for an employee who had just recently joined the company (i.e. less than a year) and there can be extra severance based on longevity and seniority.
For example, some companies pay a minimum severance of 1 or 2 weeks to anyone they let go and then an additional week of severance for each additional period they’ve been there (e.g. an extra week of severance for every year they’ve been at the company)).
Your industry may play by different rules so you should ask around.
And, again, if you don’t have a standard set of severance packages yet, that’s ok — you can use your next firing or two to establish one.
The point is to be standard/consistent so that this will be easier for you in the future.
What to Say When Firing Someone (Write a Firing Script)
Now we’re getting closer to having to actually fire the person. This is a very important conversation and I urge you to write out a script of what you’re going to say.
Here’s a script that I used to fire Cooper (don’t worry, I’ve never fired a real Cooper before):
1. “Cooper, this isn’t working out between us.”
2. “The primary reason is [fill this in with the reason(s) that you already identified above] “E.g.: “Cooper, the reason this isn’t working out is that we believe we need a more experienced person in your position to help us reach our objectives.”
3. “We value you immensely, Coop (list all his contributions and really make him feel loved).”
4. “And what we’d like to do is give you time to figure out your transition.” (This is optional based on when you determined their Last Day (see above) to be).
5. “Since we know it’s easier to find a job while still an employee, you can remain a paid employee until [fill in the date (see above)] ”
6. “Between now and [fill in the date], we ask that you complete the following deliverables, and you can feel free to use your remaining time as “flex time” to search for a job.
7. “We’ll do our best in supporting whatever next job you get.” (e.g. You say you’ll be willing to act as a reference (assuming you see some positive things in the person) or at least will confirm that they worked at your company)).
I recommend you practice the script with a fellow executive, your manager or a mentor. Do a dry run-through together — it will make you much more comfortable with the difficult conversation you’re about to have.
Really dig into what Cooper’s pain point is going to be regarding his imminent employment termination. It may be that he is driven by some extra money (i.e. severance) or it it may be that it’s very important for him to save face.
The Actual Firing
Ok, now comes the part you probably fear the most (I did too): You have to tell the employee that he or she is out of here.
Here’s what I do:
Most of the time, Cooper will eventually accept the decision; though he may try to bargain a bit in which case you should be open to exceptions to any of the terms you outlined if Cooper makes a strong case). But if you’ve done your homework, your Severance and Timing will have been fair and Cooper will accept it.
Other Things To Consider
A final reminder that I can’t emphasize enough: Deal with the issue swiftly.
You owe it to your company, yourself and Cooper to be decisive. Plus, the sooner you act the more flexibility you have in helping Cooper on his way (and the more money and headaches you save everyone).
And if you want to minimize the number of people you fire, please read You Must Topgrade.
If you have questions not covered in this article, please comment below (it can be anonymous).
A number of people ask me how I obtained a large network of contacts (I have 3,000 names in my iPhone).
Strangely, I’ve never thought of myself as a schmoozer…I’m actually fairly introverted.
But I’ve been very lucky. A few things were in my favor:
So, the 3,000 names isn’t that impressive — it really just came from 20 years times of storing an average of 100+ contacts per year.
That’s just 1 new contact I made (and stored) every 3 days. I’m sure you could do that (unless you’re a monk at a convent in which case you’re probably in the wrong place right now!).
But there is one secret I was reminded of a few years ago that I wished I had implemented earlier on in my career!
It’s only briefly mentioned on page 37 of the soft-cover version of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.
In a word: “Connectors.”
Here’s an exercise I’d like you to do (should take 15 minutes and be fun):
Here’s a snippet from my list:
Now, you’ll start to notice that just a few people — in my case Chad, Ted, Erin and Dave — are responsible for connecting me to most my friends.
Gladwell calls these people “Connectors.”
I’m a Connector too, though not as good as my Connectors.
So, if you want to to expand your network, here are a few lessons:
I was inspired enough by this exercise to take Chad & Ted out for a yummy steak dinner at Gene & Georgetti’s in Chicago where I presented each of them with a personalized gift. It was of minimal value compared to the value they have given me through their Connections.
Thanks, Mr. Gladwell and thank you, Connectors!
What do you know about Connectors and Networking? Please comment below.
The Daily Huddle has arguably been one of the greatest productivity and efficiency boosters I’ve personally experienced.
Since I started using it, I’ve run into numerous industry leaders (such as the Ritz Carlton and Johnson & Johnson) who benefit from the Daily Huddle.
Duhh, why didn’t I begin this 20 years ago!
I first read about the concept of the Daily Huddle in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, which may be the best how-to book for small businesses that I’ve read. Its author Verne Harnish was inspired by the habits of business tycoon John D. Rockefeller and translates those for you to apply to business today.
I know, I sound pretty excited about this stuff — that’s cuz I am!
So, what is the Daily Huddle? Well, for starters, I use the term “Daily Huddle” because I like the ring of it — you may have heard it called names like Daily Scrum, Daily Pulse, Daily Agile, Daily Lineup (Ritz Carlton) or Daily StandUp. The concept is what counts.
Let me outline the basics first:
The agenda is the same every day. I recommend you first test out the Rockefeller Habits’ suggested agenda. That’s what I did and we didn’t need to change a thing.
Here are some other things I’ve noticed from my experience with the Daily Huddle.
And please read Mastering the Rockefeller Habits — it’s chock full of other valuable habits and ideas for businesses to grow.
You should comment below about your experience with the Daily Huddle — I really want to hear your opinion!
I used to have poor credit.
And if you’re like me, you’ve had to fund some or all of your business on credit. When I ran Mojam.com, I had to use cash withdrawls off of five credit cards just to meet payroll for a month or two!
Unfortunately, I was a dumb kid back then and didn’t pay back the loans fast enough (causing poor credit!).
So, below are some learnings from restoring my credit.
First off, this article focuses on how to maximize your opportunity to get personally-guaranteed credit…so it’s useful if you A) Run a small business where you have to personally gurantee your credit cards or B) Want to improve your credit outside of business (e.g. for mortgage or automobile loans).
Ok, first off, how do you measure your credit? — Currently, one matters more than all others: Your FICO score. FICO stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, a credit-scoring business that works with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) monitoring people’s credit.
FICO scores range between 300 and 850 (the higher being better) with a score of:
FICO doesn’t make you loans but they provide the report card — the FICO Score — for others who do.
So, you might ask: How do I fix my credit?
Well, it’s based on a secret algorithm that changes all the time (sort of like Coke’s recipe or Google’s algorithm).
This article is sort of like reverse-engineering FICO.
I asked Scott Jones, a credit repair expert I worked with at CreditLine, to talk about the key ingredients of FICO’s secret recipe and how important each ingredient is (the % in parentheses). Here’s what he said:
Your Payment History (35% of score)
Basically, paying on time helps lift your score, while paying late, liens and bankruptcy will lower it.
The Amount You Owe (30%)
Keep your balance low to zero. Lenders don’t like to see you using up all your credit on your credit cards (i.e. letting the balance get high) so if you can keep it low (or, better yet, pay it down to zero), you’ll get some points for that.
The Length of Your Credit History (15%)
The longer you have a credit card the more points you get on your FICO score. Even if you use a credit card just sparingly (like me with my Mervyn’s Card), you get some good FICO points for just having it for a long time.
New Credit Inquiries (10%)
This one is interesting: When you apply for a loan (including getting a credit card), the company providing you with credit (i.e. Visa or Mastercard or AMEX or a department store or mortgage company or Auto Dealership) makes what is called a “New Credit Inquiry” with the credit agencies to see what your credit looks like. Each new inquiry can LOWER your FICO score (my guess is by 10 to 30 points) for a short amount of time (about three months); so, be careful not to take out a few credit cards at one time.
Get the Right Types of Credit (10%)
Different credit is measured differently. Below is one credit expert’s prioritization of which types of credit in order of importance (first being most important).
Here are some other tips & final notes:
If you’re like me and you made a bunch of mistakes already, you can repair your credit but it takes time. A Couple of Options:
Do it Yourself — You can get free online credit reports from all three agencies at CreditReport.com and you should! Go to Check out the details of each (they will list each one of your credit cards or loans) and if you can find an incorrect piece of info or an inconsistency among the three agencies (one of them reports that you were late on paying your AMEX card and the other two do not), then write a “letter of correction/deletion” to try to fix your credit report.
That doesn’t harm you and typically can turn into them correcting/removing the item in a way that positively impacts your credit
Use a Credit Repair Service — I used a service called CreditLine and I ended up increasing my score from 616 to 778 within two and one-half years; an average of about 15 points every three months.
I used their premium service and it was worth every penny. It helped me get bettter terms on my car loan and gives me piece of mind about getting a loan for a anything else in the future. They also provided me with phone-based credit counseling.
Either way, make sure you’re in tune with your FICO score, apply what tips you can and good luck with your credit restoration.
Question for you: Do you know how credit works outside the U.S.? If you do, please comment below with any tips you have — thanks!