Having Difficult Conversations
No one likes either giving or receiving bad news. Confronting difficult situations is one of the hardest skills for many leaders to master. Conversations about performance, tardiness, absenteeism, attitude, dress code, etc. are all difficult topics, but that doesn’t mean they can or should be avoided.
Research tells us that productivity, morale & retention of staff decrease when managers avoid difficult conversations. Yet, there seems to be minimal training given to managers in this area.
There is no question you will have to have these conversations - here are some points to consider now so that you are ready when the time comes:
- End in Mind – Before going into the conversation ask yourself a few questions - What is the purpose of having this conversation? What would be the ideal outcome of the conversation?
- Notes – Jot down points you wish to make during the difficult conversation. We often get ourselves in trouble when we just ‘wing it’.
- Immediate – Your response must be immediate. As soon as you notice the problem you have to plan for the conversation. It won’t just go away, and the rest of your staff are looking to see if you are going to deal with it.
- Attitude – Remember that “the way you think determines how you feel, the way you feel determines how you act and the way you act determines the result you will get.” Try to adjust your attitude to get the most out of the conversation.
- Personal History – Don’t let personal history trigger other issues. If you are emotional about other issues in the past that were not dealt with, this is not the time. Keep focused on the situation at hand.
- Ask Questions – Lead with curiosity. Ask the other person their views and opinions by using open-ended questions. Seek to understand vs. seeking to be understood.
- Listen – During these difficult conversations most of us tend to be thinking about what we are going to say next. Be an active listener – listen to truly understand what the other person is saying.
- Practice – Practice is not punitive, it’s meant to build your confidence. I have heard some managers start with “I am finding this conversation difficult.” This is not about you. People know when you lack confidence so be prepared.
Don’t let productivity, morale and staff retention slide because you are not comfortable with difficult conversations. Show your entire team that you are willing to deal with these situations - promptly and appropriately.
The Author, Bonita Argent, is a Vertical Growth Advisor with Sitkins International.