It’s something that can cause any leader to dread.
No one wants to have to pull one of their employees into a room and have a difficult conversation with them about their performance, behaviour, attitude, or any subject for that matter. But these interactions do not have to be so stressful. A difficult conversation can not only be a learning experience for your employee but also for yourself.
If you have to have a difficult conversation with one of your staff members, try these tips to make your experience a little less stressful.
1. Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
You don’t want to walk into a difficult conversation in the wrong headspace. If you’re tired, grumpy, or stressed out, then take a walk around the block or go somewhere that will get you out of your funk. I
f you’re in this type of mood when you walk into the meeting, then it’s going to come across as a negative experience, and the points you’re trying to articulate might not land the way you want them to.
2. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
This tip has a lot to do with empathy. Not everyone sets out to do the wrong thing deliberately. There is always a root cause, and you need to put yourself in their shoes to understand where they’re coming from and why they made the decisions that led them to the conversation you’re having now.
You also need to be aware that not everyone has the same thought process as yourself, and you need to understand that to move forward with the conversation.
3. Go in With a Plan
It seems obvious, but the last thing you want to do is walk into an important meeting with one of your employees and try to wing it. You don’t need to write down a full script with a response to every kind of objection you get back. But you should have at least three points you want to make as well as some preferred actions that you can move forward with.
You should also have an outcome that you want to achieve. However, don’t be too rigid as, throughout the conversation, you both might arrive at an even better solution.
4. Jump on the Problem Sooner Rather Than Later
Don’t let anything fester. It won’t be any good for you or the individual you’re meeting with. Both of you will overthink it, and the situation can become bigger than it needs to be.
The last thing you want to do is let a behaviour, performance issue, or attitude evolve into something even harder to control. Jump on a problem immediately and put the kybosh on it as soon as you can to avoid further problems.
5. Silence is Golden
Your most powerful method as a leader in a difficult conversation is silence. Remember, the reason you’re there is to learn more about the reasoning from your employee. You can’t do that if you’re doing all of the talking.
When it feels like there is a conversation lull, use that as an opportunity to create an uncomfortable silence. You’ll find that your employee will be the first to speak every time. The only time you should be talking is at the beginning to discuss why you’re there and at the end to discuss the way forward.
6. Don’t Forget To Follow Up
Remember that at the end of your difficult conversation that you want to set actions about the way forward. These actions are crucial to success, and you must do your part to follow up afterwards and ensure that these steps are being followed.
Leadership is a partnership with your employee, and if you let them down, then you’ll just end up in the same situation again.
How to Avoid Difficult Conversations
No one enjoys having a difficult conversation. Instead, you should be doing everything in your power to avoid having to conduct one. So how do you do that? Stay in constant conversation with your people and guide them as a leader. You might even find they start checking in with you a little more before doing something that might have previously ended up in a difficult conversation.
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