Volume 12, Issue 5 - September/October 2010

Customer Service
tips for quality service

The Art of Confrontation
by Carl Tompkins

Everyone likes things to go smoothly and easily. No one likes having problems. In business, everyone welcomes all the success and prosperity possible as long as nothing has to change and that no challenges occur. Probably the best summary of our nature as people comes is a quote from the book, “Winning is a Choice,” written by PGA legend Gary Player Jim Hiskey. The quote reads as follows, “Our bodies resist the difficult and crave the comfortable.”

No Change, No Challenges?
One of the biggest reasons—if not the most common—for business failures is the human nature of craving comfort, which results in having no problems, no need for change, no difficult tasks and no challenges. No business is going to survive in this desired state of utopia, even though it would be nice. So, it is safe to say that the subject of “confrontation” is going to come into play somewhere along the line for everyone, considering that the term equates to facing people or situations head-on, in a bold manner.

The bad news is that confrontation is a must in business. The good news is that there is a proper and effective manner to incorporate confrontation within daily business habits. And, this leads to better business results while making the task more palatable, too.

“There is a proper and effective manner to incorporate confrontation
within daily business habits.”

First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that all people appreciate proper authority, responsibilities and accountability. When management recognizes the need for each of these three elements and properly incorporates each, the foundation is set for good things to happen. This fact should help establish the right mindset to proceed in the use of confrontation.

The first step of the confrontation meeting is to define the desired outcome and then focus on the desired results. This helps eliminate the risk that people will feel they are being attacked personally or are being singled out as the source of the problem. If you follow this method, you can share any subject or concern with little risk.

The second step is to take a basic vote to find out if those involved feel the same urgency you do. Now, you don’t need to be too structured here, but you should ask questions of each individual to ascertain their level of buy-in. If anyone fails to join in on the merit of the topic, a motivational speech is in order. Those involved must be with you prior to proceeding; if not, you’re wasting time.

The third step of effective confrontation is to gather opinions and recommendations on the subject from those involved. This helps establish the attitudes and beliefs of those involved and, in turn, will help shape management’s best approach at reaching the targeted outcome. This step demonstrates to the participants that their involvement is important and that management is not working in a vacuum. Furthermore, management can learn a lot by asking such questions, which follows a valuable management tip: Management sets the destination and employees tell you how best to get there.

The fourth step is to deliver information as the lead management person (or the one who is taking on the lead role of confrontation). Make all recommendations futuristic in format; i.e., define the way things should be rather than defining what went wrong. In addition, use the term, “we,” rather than “you,” which again supports the element of teamwork rather than personal fault.

The fifth and final step is to attain agreement from everyone involved. If more than one person is involved, have each individual discuss how they felt the meeting went. It’s also important to leave each person with a vote of confidence in their abilities and your appreciation of their involvement.

Eliminating Fear
If you follow these five steps, your fear of confrontation should be eliminated. Confrontation is a necessity. There is a way to do it that best protects personal feelings from coming into play, so that those involved will not feel threatened by the process but will be being ecstatic about the results. And, keep in mind that this process also works well with customers, family and friends.

Carl Tompkins is the global marketing resources manager for SIKA Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash. Mr. Tompkins’ opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

© Copyright 2010 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.