Meredith Molloy and I talk about the unexpected, and how awkward that can be. Be prepared for it, people!
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Charlotte Ward 0:14
Hello, and welcome to Episode 13 of the Customer Support Leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. The theme for this week is awkward conversations. So stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. Today I’d like to welcome back Meredith Malloy. So Meredith the topic for this week is awkward conversations. I’m sure this isn’t going to be one of those awkward conversations, but I’d love to know…
Meredith Molloy 0:47
Never with you, Charlotte, never, never,
Charlotte Ward 0:49
Never! But I’d love to know what your experiences and thoughts and advice are on the topic of awkward conversations.
Meredith Molloy 0:57
Um, one thing that’s always really helped me is learning and realising that whatever the conversation is about, whether it’s around performance, whether it’s around attendance that the issue at hand likely, it’s a piece of a larger context. And so in reality, you may be as a leader and as a manager going into a conversation prepared to have this be really laser-focused on a person’s attendance when in reality throughout the course of the conversation, it may spin into a larger picture of what is going on for your person and really needing to address the core issue, and not just the initial awkward issue at hand.
Charlotte Ward 1:43
Yeah, I think you’re right that during the course of these conversations, being laser-focused is good in some ways in that you start with what you want to talk about. But I think what makes these conversations awkward quite often is that things unfold and your expectation, I mean, you can have the rug pulled out from under your feet sometimes can’t you, right? And so much of what makes this awkward is the unexpected.
Meredith Molloy 2:12
Yeah, I completely agree. I think going in knowing that may be the case helps not just with your own anxiety as a manager going into an awkward conversation going into that knowing that it may take sharp left turns, you may have the rug pulled out from under you. You know, it allows you sort of like to be flexible, be aware that these conversations may take a turn, at the very least knowing that it may take a turn helps you maintain a bit of control of of the conversation’s direction, maintaining that sense of direction within the conversation has been an unfortunate art that I’ve had to learn throughout the, you know, the past five or six years or so, as one gains, more and more experience, it does get a bit easier
Charlotte Ward 3:11
Aside from experience, aside from tenure, aside from just doing enough of these that you get better at it, what have you got any particular approach when you go into these conversations that you found successful that help you stay basically nimble enough to manage that unexpected portion?
Meredith Molloy 3:33
Yeah, I’ve always, you know, coached my people. When customers get escalated or conversations, start taking a turn. You know, I’ve always coached them to, you know, not take that conversation personally. It’s never really about it’s never personal to, to them. It’s always you know, frustration around the situation at hand, is is super Important,
Charlotte Ward 4:01
That support mindset that we have all come to the leadership position with because by and large 99% of us have been in that IC role. You can carry those… they’re effectively transferable skills, aren’t they you transfer that. They come with you up into leadership, and you are then in a support role for your staff as opposed to customers and you just bring them on. Right. So yeah, and I think one thing that’s occurred to me, we’re talking about this as though it’s a negative thing, but there are awkwardnesses to conversations that have a positive spin as well, right. I mean, we can have have conversations where they feel they’re ready for further growth that we hadn’t spotted. They want something to happen that you haven’t considered and, and that can that can wrongfoot you as well, can’t it as well.
Meredith Molloy 4:50
It definitely can. A conversation with one of your highest performers were expectations aren’t aligned around what may be the next step in their career growth is an awkward conversation to be had, and quite possibly even more awkward because you know that that this person is a top key performer. They have such growth potential. And for a plethora of reasons those growth expectations might not be in alignment.
Charlotte Ward 5:26
And it’s one of our it’s one of our greatest joys and greatest fears, isn’t it as leaders that our top performer’s outgrown us?
Meredith Molloy 5:34
Right? There’s almost this, this air of not desperation, where you really want to make sure that you retain this person. And I think we all look at some of our top performers, where if they – poof – were gone tomorrow, it would be mayhem!
Charlotte Ward 5:53
We’d be screwed!
Meredith Molloy 5:56
But yes, it can absolutely be an awkward conversation. That a manager and leader need needs navigate really delicately.
Charlotte Ward 6:05
Yeah, um, you can start with being laser-focused, you have to be prepared for the rug to be pulled out from under your feet. I guess also, what we haven’t quite said is that if you’re informed enough, when you go in, and you, at least on some level, expect to have the unexpected that you can then probably react to that accordingly and manage those differences in expectations accordingly.
Meredith Molloy 6:29
Yeah, it’s really about being prepared for what you absolutely may not be able to be prepared for.
Charlotte Ward 6:40
That’s it for today, go to customersupportleaders.com/13 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.
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