How to Conduct Difficult Conversations
One of the greatest challenges for new managers is being able to conduct difficult conversations successfully. Approaching difficult conversations with a win-lose mentality is a common new manager mistake that often results in neither party feeling satisfied.
The Top Seven Most Dreaded Conversations
New managers tell us that the following conversations are the most difficult to conduct:
Many tell us that just the thought of what may lie ahead and how wrong it could go hampers their ability to be effective.
Four Tips for New Managers on How to Conduct Difficult Conversations
Here are a few tips on how to conduct difficult conversations better:
1. Don’t Procrastinate
There is nothing to be gained by postponing a difficult conversation. In fact, there’s a lot to lose. The problem grows in your imagination along with your anxiety level.Plan for the discussion, know your goal for the conversation, and let emotions settle down. But don’t put off the conversation for more than one day.
2. Establish Ground Rules
As with any larger meeting, ground rules can provide helpful boundaries for an effective discussion. Agree that there will be no personal attacks, no interruptions and no yelling. This goes for you both…the manager and the team member!
3. Be Open
Your job as manager is to be direct, calm and objective. State your concern and then ask your team member if there’s more you should know about the situation. Sometimes there are behind-the-scenes explanations that can help your understanding.This is the time to use your best active listening skills. Ultimately, you want the situation to improve. To make that happen, you need the cooperation of your direct report.
Show empathy but, at the same time, don’t reduce your expectations for acceptable behavior and performance.
4. Agree Upon a Path Forward
Work together to devise a step-by-step plan for improvement and impose a timeline for reporting in. If there are others involved in the problem, they will need to be on board also. Act as a coach encouraging better behavior and quickly pointing out backward steps.As a manager, you should be in control as moves are made in the right direction.
The Bottom Line
These simple, straightforward tips can keep the conversation timely, productive and on track. The good news is that you’ll get better with experience. In the meantime, get ready, get set and go for it!
To learn more about how to conduct difficult conversations, download Effective Communication Skills – The Essential Ingredient in Any Interaction
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