Anne Ward and Bob Sandidge: Developing tools to handle difficult conversations
We're just in from an annual leadership retreat where the theme was “Difficult Conversations.” Our presentation helped set the stage for the 160 attendees to get to work developing tools for better conversations around issues they found hard to approach.
As managers and leaders, we are often faced with initiating challenging conversations that can feel uncomfortable. In our role we deal with issues that range from an employee not showing up on time to offending a customer, personal grooming, or even a major breech of company policy. Sometimes those difficult conversations are with unhappy customers.
Our suggestion to make these encounters go more smoothly is to, first, prepare. Prepare yourself by having a clear outcome for the conversation. Give yourself the gift of clarity by knowing what you want (not just what you don’t want). Being upset about someone's performance or behavior as you enter a conversation has the potential for making things worse. State your desired outcome in the positive. Try saying it several different ways so you'll be familiar with the language you want to use. While you may want someone to stop doing something, you need to be explicit about what you want them to BE DOING instead. People learn TO DO a lot easier than to NOT DO.
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