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How to have difficult conversations as a leader

In many transport businesses there are seldom consequences for staff not following rules which can lead to safety risks.

Business owners and/or leaders say some of the key issues are staff attitudes in particular their indifference to duties such as looking after equipment, accurate reporting, and following rules.

This blog gives leaders tips on how to have different conversations with employees when jobs aren’t done and procedures aren’t followed.

Why don’t staff follow rules?

There are many reasons why your staff may not follow rules such as, not believing in the process, not having ownership, thinking they can get away with laxity, lack of training, they are disengaged, or the process is too complicated.

Regardless of the reason if the leaders do nothing, it will become the norm. For example, if one driver does not complete the vehicle check then after a while other drivers will start to think ‘why should I?’ and before long the majority will stop following the process. 

What to do?

When a staff member is not following rules the first thing a leader should do is get the facts, namely – ‘do your homework’. It’s important that you get the facts as you cannot hold staff accountable on hearsay, feelings, or intangibles. You can only manage performance on what can be measured.

For example, if a driver is not doing his vehicle checks as a leader you can’t say he is being ‘lazy’ as it is not a behaviour that can be measured. However, if you have proof of how many times he has not done the check then you can have a conversation based on facts which can’t be disputed.

If the staff member has had several warnings then it is highly recommended that professional human resources support is requested. However, if the behaviour is dealt with quickly before it escalates then the S.T.A.R approach is a good guide to follow.

S.T.A.R.

Below the table outlines the S.T.A.R approach (with an example) to have difficult conversations. The example used in the table is a branch manager struggling to get his driver to complete proof of delivery documentation.

Star Approach

Example

S – Set the Scene

Describe when it happened, possibly who was around.

 

”I would like to talk to you about getting proof of delivery from our clients and how you have done this in the last month.” 

T – Task

Describe the task needed to be done, the standard required.

 

“Every time a delivery is made by a driver, they are required to get our company’s proof of delivery documentation dated and signed by the client.”

A – Action

Describe their actions, what they did. Here is where you have the facts.

 

“In the last month you have made 20 deliveries and only 2 documents showing proof of delivery have be completed properly, the other 18 are incomplete or missing.”

R – Result

Describe the consequences.

 

“This means we are unable to invoice the client and collect the money for the work you have done.”   

Once you have gone through S.T.A.R it is important to listen with no prejudice as to why they have not been following the procedure. It might mean that they need more training or there could be a systemic issue, for example the documents are not given to them prior to some of the deliveries.

From their response you will know what action to take, from giving a verbal waring to taking remedial action such as additional training or reviewing the current process. Above all, agree on a time to meet to review how well the staff member is improving.

Finally, it is important to always document and keep a record of the conversations you have with your staff even if is only a first verbal warning.