First of all, we all do it. Some of us do anything to avoid conflict. Some of us want to be friends with everyone. No one really enjoys delivering words that might cause upset or worry.
Second, as a leader, there is no escaping the need, from time to time, to say what needs to be said. Nothing gets better if left alone, and it will most likely get worse and become a bigger issue than if you dealt with it swiftly. If you delay or avoid difficult conversations then you really aren’t fully accepting the responsibility of being the leader.
Here is a simple guide to planning and having the difficult conversation.
1. Ask yourself if the person in question fully understands your expectations and specifically where they are letting you down or what the issue is. If the answer is no, then that’s where you start.
2. Think about the result you want from the conversation. Be specific. What will success look like?
3. Think about how the person is likely to receive the news – predict their reaction. Could you achieve a better outcome by choosing different words and using a different tone? This is being empathetic.
4. Plan for the conversation. Book in a time for it to happen. Write down in advance what you are going to say, in the order you are going to say it. Plan how to finish the conversation on a positive note. Rehearse in private or even confidentially role play with a trusted third party.
5. Do it. Be positive, unemotional and firm.
Like most things, the more we do them, the better we get at them. Before you know it you will dealing with issues the minute they come up and everyone will be happier.