How to Have a Difficult Conversation

By People Leaders | Communication

What are the conversations you avoid having in your workplace? It could be the one you need to have with a staff member about their performance or personal hygiene. Maybe it’s a discussion with a more senior manager about how they are interacting with your team.

There’s no shortage of possible triggers for ‘difficult conversations’ and it’s one of the most highly requested skills we are asked to train people in. We even dedicate an entire module to it in our Leadership Essentials program.

In this episode we discuss difficult conversations, which we often prefer to call necessary conversations, and the importance of having a process to tackle them. Without a process your default position will be to put them off as much as you can and the mental bandwidth that that procrastination takes up just isn’t worth it.

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Episode Highlights:

  • Difficult conersations are part of every leader’s journey
  • We prefer to think of them as necessary conversations
  • Difficult conversations comes up all the time as the most pressing skill needed for leaders in the workplace
  • Issues that trigger the need for difficult conversations are many and varied - e.g. personal hygiene, performance, attitude, etc.
  • The trickiest issue for many is having to have a difficult conversation with a more senior manager
  • ‘Misrepresenting the truth’ triggers more difficult conversations than should be necessary
  • The reason people put difficult conversations off is because they don't feel prepared enough and don't have a process for it 
  • The process for many is 'get it over with as quickly as possible' (aka ‘fly by the seat of your pants
  • Doing this means you both miss out on the rich value that a proper difficult conversation can deliver
  • While a difficult conversation may be uncomfortable, it can be incredibly productive and lift performance in ways unexpected
  • A difficult conversation provides plenty of teaching moments and also provides plenty of 'learning moments'
  • If you follow a process you may even find that the difficult conversation becomes unnecessary (because of the pre-work you do for it)
  • A difficult conversation should be tackled in 3 phases
  • 1 - Preparation and setup
  • 2 - The conversation
  • 3 - Follow up and/or debrief

We cover difficult conversations in more detail on our Leadership Essentials online training and coaching program, which has a module dedicated to the subject. We've also added a new bonus lesson to the program that covers a new template we've put together for the preparation phase of a difficult conversation.

The  next Leadership Essentials is coming up on September 2nd 2021, with early bird registration rates available till August 11th. And even if you are reading this after those dates, you can still visit the link to find out when the next program is on (we hold it a couple of times a year).

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