Leader as Counselor – Facilitating the Intervention and Your Dialogue Flow!

Can it get any more uncomfortable than this? Probably at the top of any managerial-leader’s list of uncomfortable and disliked functions is that of facilitating a counseling or disciplinarian intervention session with a problem player.

An effective organization can be terrorized by a problematic employee, productive employees can leave, turnover can become systemic and implosions can occur daily if not addressed. An effective leader must recognize these disruptions as opportunities to provide subtle – or not so subtle – behavior course corrections to an individual and bring them back into being a contributor instead of a detractor.

To facilitate the actual session, mentally design the intervention into three stages: Opening Dialogue, Body Dialogue and Closing Dialogue. While you may have rehearsed in your head a dozen times your opening statement, and perhaps even the body context, putting all three together is what few managers do, causing counseling interventions to become long-winded diatribes.

  1. Opening Dialogue should start with a power statement such as, “We are here because of the choices you have made…” Immediately establish the fact-based reason for this intervention, and calmly communicate the ground rules for this engagement, as well as are and are not acceptable discussion points and behaviors. Qualify the pain factor or leverage that you have at your disposal to ensure the purpose of the meeting is taken seriously. Ensure that they know they have been appreciated, or they never would have been employed on that team. Let them know that, from that perspective, you ultimately value them on the team and wish for this meeting agenda to be amicably resolved. This should be a very concise, controlled and even rehearsed set-up sentence…don’t belabor the point in your opening!
  1. Body Dialogue allows you to expand on the issue – and only that issue – at hand. This is where you develop the subject matter, share precisely what the behavior(s) is that will no longer be accepted, associate the why factor to the behavior and either design the action-implementation plan or accept their resignation.

If you can design a document that details the specific problem behavior, and they sign it, it can serve as a “Letter of Resignation” should the problem persist. Far too often, due to gutless leadership, legal protection is afforded to problem players, who just float from one organization (or department) to another, terrorizing everyone. They are then further financially compensated when terminated via tax payer-funded unemployment services or litigation. Therefore, behavioral change can be stimulated if the pain factor is powerful enough! 

  1. Closing Dialogue is just as important as the Opening and Body. Just as you may have spent days rehearsing the other two stages, so too should you invest mental time crafting a non-combative, supportive closing statement that you can conversationally present as a transition from what will most likely be an uncomfortable dialogue to the next obvious aspect of your day. Consider how you will conversationally exit the Body and, for that matter, the environment in which you are conducting your session. This will help prevent a fight or flight situation and avoid causing passive-aggressive behaviors by the problem player afterward. Your aim is to turn the problematic player into a productive player once again!

As the leader of a team of individuals, your ultimate goal is to draw out and showcase the strengths and skills of each person in pursuit of growing your organization.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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