Consider the following “dos and don’ts” for holding difficult conversations:
- Don’t get stuck in the preparation phase. Practice is vital, but don’t use it as an excuse not to hold the real conversation.
- Don’t use comparative language: “You should write your reports the way Emily does.”
- Don’t assume you have all the facts. It’s possible there’s a story behind the story, and while it may not change the feedback you offer, the additional context may change how you deliver it.
- Do Think Win-Win. Make sure your motives are genuine.
- Do describe your concerns. Use terms like “I was surprised to hear…” or “I’m concerned about…”
- Do give specific examples. Focus on facts versus your opinions.
- Do listen. Concentrate and reflect on the way the other person feels.
- Do ask open-ended questions: “People are perceiving you this way — can you tell me why you think that’s happening?”
- Do be as specific as possible without violating the person’s privacy. It’s a delicate balance that requires sophistication and genuine care.
FROM MESS TO SUCCESS: LEAD DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS
- Identify a difficult conversation you need to hold.
- If you’ve been delaying it, have an honest conversation with yourself about why. Is it the nature of your relationship with the other person? Your discomfort with the topic? Your skill and confidence in communicating it appropriately? Pinpoint the root cause and address that first.
- Identify a more seasoned leader with whom you can role-play the conversation. Be aware of sensitive information and confidentiality.
- Take a moment and challenge your paradigm —
- Are you viewing the issue holistically? Have you gathered all the relevant facts? Have you considered the other person’s point of view, and are you open-minded about the path forward?
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