Ever need to have a difficult conversation with someone but dread it? Need to get something out on the table but not knowing how to say it and remain Christlike in the dialogue? Use Bobb Biehl’s leadership star.
“I care enough about you to be fair and honest with you. Here is where you are strong (list them). Here are some things that might be stressing you and are difficult for me (list them). I want to free you up to serve in your strengths by. . .”
The conversation can be this brief or more of a dialogue depending on the circumstance. We use it when someone’s perfomance or character is continually sub-par and we need to address it. Let’s look at it piece by piece:
1. Care. If you haven’t cared for them in the past, you are already sunk because you weren’t Christlike. You’ll have to skip that part of the star, but it makes it more difficult.
2. Fair and honest. If you are a political spin artist or have danced around the truth in the past, they’ll be shocked you are being so straightforward now. Always have complete honesty in previous conversations as a bedrock foundation. For example, if one of our employees tanks a presentation, I don’t tell him/her, “Good job today.” Instead I say, “Make sure we . . . next time.” I don’t want them to hear in the weakness/difficulties section below, “You are not a good presenter,” for the first time in the star conversation. They need to be hearing honest critique along the way.
3. Strengths. Sometimes I ask them what they think they are doing well in their role? I tell them the strengths of character and execution that I see them exhibit.
4. Weakness, Stressors and Difficulties. I then say, “Here are some things I sense might be causing you stress and are causing me difficulties.” I could include their lack of promptness, poor execution, character issue, etc. I always point out they are causing me or another team member stress so the person cannot say, “No, that isn’t stressing me out at all.”
5. Free you up to serve in your strengths. Sometimes we can talk about how I could move them laterally. Is there a position that maximizes their strengths and makes their weakness irrelevant? Other times I have to let them go, as painful as that is, because there is no lateral move. Sometimes, it is as simple as saying we will watch a stressor/difficulty together for a while to see if they can resolve it (kind of like a yellowcard in soccer). I give them very clear expectations about what “resolve” means.
The leadership star is a great tool to keep a difficult conversation on task and for you not to soften up what really needs to be said in its fullness. The conversation can be honest and Christlike. We’ll post up some video of examples of using this star in various mocked-up settings soon. If you have questions, ask away in the comments section and we’ll do our best to answer how we do it.