Highlighting the stakes or implications, if people do not change their behaviours, performance or the situation, can be your golden ticket to the change you are looking for.
Think about it. For parents, how many times do you have to ask the kids to pick up their school bags, or stack the dishwasher? Yet when you mention the impact of not doing this like no pocket money, or having to do their siblings jobs for a week. Then, you get traction.
What about giving someone feedback about how disrespectful they are to their colleagues. You may feel like you have told them ‘til you are blue in the face. Yet when you mention their they are unlikely to work on the next great project, or get a promotion, or worst case scenario receive a formal warning, then they listen.
It’s not just about getting their attention. It’s about highlighting the impact and importance of the conversation. After all the higher the stakes, the more important the change is, the more important it is to make it clear for them.
If you are having a performance discussion the stakes might be; ‘If you don’t improve then we will have to go down a formal performance management process and your first warning will be issued’. Or ‘If we can not change the timeframes then we will not be able to produce the units in time for the customer and we may lose them altogether’ or ‘If we don’t improve our working relationship it sets a poor example for the rest of the team and we are unlikely to do our best work’.
I’ve seen too many times people being surprised in performance conversations, or when it comes to not receiving the promotion they had expected. When I get behind the reasons it is often that their colleagues or leaders have not been clear enough and highlighted the stakes of not changing or improving.
I find that it is the person giving the feedback that shies away from this, yet later wonders why the other did not fully understand how serious the issue is.
On the other side, if the stakes are really low then so is the impact. And in some cases maybe not worth mentioning. It may be you are just nipping something in the bud for the first time. Such as, how to close the customer call with more success, or a better way to present to a client, or how to run a meeting more effectively.
So next time you need to have a tough conversation or give some constructive feedback ask yourself;
What is the impact of the action, or inaction?
What are the repercussions?
What are the stakes of not improving or handling the issue better?
What could happen if they do not act on the information you are giving them?
Then say it.
There is no other way.
The stakes are your ticket to show the reason you are having the conversation. It just makes sense.