Transcript: How To Have Difficult Conversations With Your Team

January 24, 2023

AMY PORTERFIELD: “And so then I looked at them and I said, ‘You can look at this as “This is a problem. We have a challenge. This is not good.” Or you can look at this as “This is an opportunity for us.”’ And then I looked at them and I said, ‘You decide. You have to decide if this is scary, a challenge, a problem; or is this an opportunity, and we could possibly make some magic out of this? You have to decide.’”  

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY: Well, hey, there, friend. Welcome back to Online Marketing Made Easy 

Can you believe that we're well into January already? And now that the business of the holidays is over, I've had some time to really reflect on the past year. I'll be honest: 2022 was an amazing year. I loved it. I loved so much about the year, but it was also a year of growth for me as a leader. I really had to look at how I was showing up, what I could do better.  

I mean, to give you a little hint, one thing that I tend to do is kind of get riled up really quickly. Like, if something's going wrong in the business, it will bother me instantly. I will feel it in my body. I will worry about it and think about it and kind of like just start talking about it in a way that probably freaked out my leadership team versus pausing, reflecting, thinking about how I want to show up in this situation, and then acting from that point. And so in 2022, I learned the value of the pause. And although I'm not perfect at it, that's one thing I'm taking from last year into this year: learning to pause. I don't need to say every thing I think. I don't need to get riled up right away, like, right out of the gate. I can take a moment. And I think really good leaders understand the power of the pause. So that’s something that I worked on a lot last year, and I continue to work on it this year.  

But listen, even if I know the power of the pause, that doesn't mean that things aren't going to happen, that there aren’t going to be bumps in the road and challenges along the way. Like, no business is perfect. And we need to remember that when we see other people's businesses on Instagram, and they look shiny and perfect and streamlined, you have no idea what's going on on the back end. And I've been around too long to know that everybody's business, even people that are thriving, that it looks amazing, they, too, have challenges. Welcome to entrepreneurship. We all do.  

And so one of the challenges that I face—and I mentioned this in another episode—is that in quarter three, quarter four of 2022, I lost three people in my marketing team, and it was, like, a short period of time. It was like dominoes, boom, boom, boom. So I lost a VP of marketing. So remember, Chloe left at the end of 2021. She was my right hand for seven years. And then, about six months later, I hired a VP, and it just didn't work out. Out of respect for her, and I love her dearly, and we are still friends, and we still talk often, it just wasn't the perfect fit. But in addition to that, I lost an email-marketing specialist, who got a bigger job, and he went for it; and then a marketing coordinator.  

So the VP of marketing was rough, and that was something that we had communicated throughout the entire process. So I really am proud of both of us, the former VP and how I showed up around that whole thing, navigating that. And then the email-marketing specialist, I talked about this in the last episode I did, so you can go back to that one, last Tuesday, about the mistakes I made with that role. And I'm glad that he found something bigger and better and he's excited about it. And then, the marketing coordinator, that was a total surprise. I wasn't expecting that. We loved her so much. She was thriving, and then she gave her notice. Again, I talked about that in last week's Tuesday episode. 

But the reason why I'm talking about it here again is that when people quit and when we have, like, more than one person quit, like, two or three, in my case, my number one fear is that the team is going to unravel. So I get nervous about morale. And I remember—I try to put myself in my corporate shoes all the time. When I worked at a nine-to-five job and a bunch of people were quitting—and it happened at many of the jobs I was at, when there were either layoffs and people were let go, or there was just chaos and people were just dropping like flies because they wanted to leave. I've been in both situations. And it's very jarring. Like, “Oh, my gosh, am I going to lose my job, or is it safe here? Is the company imploding? Like, what's going on?” And so I worry that my team feels like things aren't working in the business. And it's not true, but I go to a dark place. 

And so what I did is I actually talked to my coach about it, and then I sat down and journaled. That's usually the two steps I take: talk to my coach; journal about it. And then sometimes I'll talk to some of my peers, like Jenna or Jasmine, or just some of my other girlfriends who have dealt with losing people on their team. I've got a really great group of entrepreneurial women I can lean on, and so I absolutely did that as well. Now that I think about it, I had a few conversations with some team members, I mean, with some peers about my team members who have left.  

And so once I did that, I kind of had to just feel what I was feeling. Yes, I felt nervous about the team. I felt nervous about they were going to think that the business isn't doing well, or morale was going to go down, or I was going to lose more people. Like, I had to feel all the feelings, worry about what I needed to worry about, but then, I had to just cut it off. Like, all right. I allowed myself to feel the feelings. I allowed myself to journal about all the fears that I’m having. And now it's time to buck up.  

Because at some point, this might be different for you, but at some point, I need to kind of shift the mindset and say, “Okay, those thoughts, I'm going to honor them, but I'm not going to live there.” So I had all the worries, all the thoughts, had all the conversations. And then I got to a really great place, because what was a huge blessing in disguise was when the three people left shortly after, like, a week or two after I had the Nashville team retreat, where I brought my entire team to Nashville for three days. And the goal was to have a good time. We worked one day, but we had fun, like, for two of the days. So it was a great time. And the day that we worked, we went to the Soho House in Nashville. So we were at this really cool venue and this big, long table that everybody sat at, and I stood up, at the head of the table, and I delivered kind of like a State of the Union kind of thing. I talked about what was going on in the company. I assured everybody that we were thriving and hitting our goals, and revenue was good, and profit margin was good, and all that. But then I said, “But let's address the fact that we just lost three people, key people, in our marketing department, and how that must feel and what you maybe have even thought about it or whatever you're making it mean.”  

And so then I just said, and this is the part of me that I really had to step up as a leader, and I said, “Look, you can look at the three people leaving the company as, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is a huge setback. What does this mean? Does this mean that the company is unraveling? Does this mean that we have a weak marketing team now? Does this mean that we have poor leadership? Does this mean…’” and I just brought up all the things that maybe they were even thinking, which is a little risky because maybe those thoughts never entered their mind, and here I am, putting it there. But I had a bigger plan. 

So I said, “These are all the thoughts you might have. But on the flip side, when three people leave a department, you could think, ‘Wait, where are the opportunities? What does this make possible? What can I do with this?’” And as I'm looking at each employee, I'm saying, “You could look at this and think, ‘Is there a place for me to be promoted? Could I grow out of this? Could I step into a new role? Could I make more money with this? Is there opportunity here for me? Is there opportunity here for the business? Could we rearrange the marketing department? Could we show up differently and do something that we've never done before now that we're a little bit more nimble?’” And so then I looked at them, and I said, “You can look at this as ‘This is a problem. We have a challenge. This is not good.’ Or you can look at this as ‘This is an opportunity for us.’” And then I looked at them and I said, “You decide. You have to decide if this is scary, a challenge, a problem; or is this an opportunity, and we could possibly make some magic out of this? You have to decide.”  

And the reason why I wanted to talk to you about this today—and I love Tuesday Shorty episodes because I get to go behind the scenes and just kind of riff off what's going on in my business—and the reason why, it was very powerful. Like, people came up to me afterwards and said, “That hit home for me. That's what I needed to hear. I feel energized. I feel excited.”  

And I think the reason why it did feel good to them and feel good to me is, number one, as a leader—and this is the part I want you to hear if you run your own business—I had to let go of what they might be thinking. I can't control what goes on in their minds, my team members. I can't make them happy, make them sad. I'm not responsible for their emotions or thoughts. They are.  

And we subscribe to the thought model learned in the Life Coach School, headed up by Brooke Castillo. A lot of the people in my company have life coaches from the Life Coach School. So if you don't know the thought model, I will link to an episode where I've talked about it before in the show notes.  

But what's most important and what I want you to know is that I got to a point that I thought, “I'm going to let go of controlling what they're thinking, and I'm going to give them the agency that they deserve and the respect they deserve to figure it out on their own. And if they think this is a setback, if they think this is scary, if they think this is a huge challenge, well, number one, they've got to deal with that. And number two, they might start to think that maybe this isn't the team they want to be on, and I have to be okay with that.”  

But also, those that want to decide “This is an opportunity,” well, there are so many doors open for them, because I said, “I'm looking at it as an opportunity. I'm excited what's in store for the marketing department. I'm excited for all of you in the marketing department in terms of what this could mean for your individual roles and you as a team. And I am only focused on the opportunity. I've decided to look at the good in this. If you want to come along with me, you are welcome. But if you want to go the other route, I cannot control what you think or feel. So it's up to you. You decide.”  

I really do believe, in that moment, it solidified my relationship with my team, saying, “I'm going to steer you in this direction, and I promise you I'm going to step up to this opportunity, and I'm going to make it great. And I really hope you come with me.” And I feel as though they felt my heart, and they also felt my leadership. And I'm not always a great leader. Because I am a natural worrier and because I feel like sometimes the weight of the world is on my shoulders with a team of twenty people and lots of big goals and big plans and challenges and all of that, it feels heavy sometimes. But I felt really solid in that moment.  

And I guess what I want to share with you is when things happen and you start to build your team and challenges come up, number one, check in with yourself how you want to show up. But number two, you've got to remember that you can't control everybody's thoughts, feelings, and emotions. That is not your job as a leader. But you can share with them the options and, hopefully, with your leadership, encourage them to follow in that direction that you want them to go. And some will go, and some won't. In my case right now, everyone came along. It was the most amazing day ever. The energy was incredible. I felt so lucky to be in that moment. And it was just awesome.  

Now, I will say we've made some big changes in the marketing department because of it. And people were promoted. New opportunities were created. Some people are moving from one department into the marketing department because there is an opportunity and they saw it and they jumped at it. So I freaking love that kind of stuff. I love go-getters. And so anyone in my company that is a go-getter and they're like, “Bring it on,” I celebrate that all day long. So anyway, I just wanted to share that with you.  

So key takeaways here. Number one, I'm almost fourteen years in, and I still lose people. I still have setbacks. I still have challenges. And there's moments that I still doubt myself as a good leader. But there's also moments that I'm like, “I got this. This is working. I feel strong. I feel centered. And I'm just going to celebrate those moments and pray that more and more of those moments continue to come.”  

And I'll leave you with this: change is inevitable. Challenges will always happen. You can either see them as a setback or an opportunity, you decide.  

Thanks so much for hanging out with me today. I hope you loved this Shorty episode as much as I loved creating it for you. And I can’t wait to see you on Thursday for more entrepreneurial goodness, same time, same place. Can’t wait. 

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