Last month I blogged about the five-step process for productive confrontation.

I have already outlined the first three steps of trust, respect, and self-awareness.  Step four is keeping your focus.

If your job is to manage or lead people and help them grow professionally, you need to give them feedback.  Feedback both negatively and positively.  Giving people feedback lets them know where they are doing well and where that need to improve or change.

Of course, how you give feedback makes all the difference in the world.  So, I came up with this five-step process.  I hope I’m not plagiarizing.  But if you recognize my list and think I should give credit to somebody, please let me know.

The fourth step is keeping focus and involves two key points. First, don’t go on tangents or bring up unrelated issues.  Second, don’t let the other person get you off-topic.

My dog, Tessie, is the perfect illustration of this topic.

At times she seems laser-focused.

When she sees another animal, she doesn’t want to let it into our backyard. She can stare it down for an eternity.  Foxes and skunks are stared down and barked at until they turn to move on.  If a rodent such as a mouse, mole, or bunny gets into the yard, she corners them until I drag her away, so the furry intruder can move on to somebody else’s yard.  All birds flee after one bark.

At other times her focus can easily be sidetracked.  A simple dog treat can get her to go outside, even though she knows I only give them to her when I plan to leave and lock her outside.

When Tessie is doing what she thinks is essential, she stays focused.  When it isn’t essential, her focus can easily be diverted.  Tessie can be helpful to have around when she focuses on the right things.

Often, I find myself and other humans being a lot like my dog.  When something comes up in a conversation, we can go off on tangents.  When we do, we tend to lose the original purpose of the conversation.

If you are talking to somebody about their frequent tardiness at work and they use car trouble as an excuse. Don’t go off topic and start helping them solve car problems.  Stay focused. Remember, it is a conversation about frequent tardiness and getting to work on time.  Their current excuse for tardiness isn’t the issue at hand.

Don’t let the person use their excuse as a way to sidetrack from the issue at hand, the same way I use dog treats to change my dog, Tessie’s, focus.

When confrontations start, people can blame others and even blame you for the issue at hand.  It is crucial that we quickly work with our coworkers to understand their role in those cases.  It is always easiest to blame somebody not currently in the room than for them to own up to their role in causing the concern at hand.

A classic case of blaming others is when somebody turns in shoddy quality work or misses a deadline and then defends it by saying something along the lines of not understanding how to do the work at hand.  You need to let them know what they could have done to get training or help before the deadline.

Stay focused on the issue at hand, and in the long run, you can productively work with the coworker on the issue if you have built trust, show respect, and continue to have self-awareness about your role in the issue.

Imagine your Tessie trying to keep the unwanted animal at bay.  At times it takes laser-focused determination to keep “skunks” out of our productive confrontations.

In July, I will post why the people involved in a productive confrontation need to develop a solution or path forward.  It is a professional situation, so resolution is needed.  The entire reason for bringing up the issue is to resolve the problem.  You had either a situation you needed to fix, or you had a situation you couldn’t allow to happen again.  This final step is to develop a plan to keep it from happening again.

Trust, respect, self-awareness, focus, and solution are the five keys to a productive confrontation.  We don’t need to seek out confrontation in the workplace, but we can’t run from confrontation once we move into a leadership role if we want to be effective leaders.