Something that I see that holds a lot of leaders back is the inability or unwillingness to have a difficult conversation. Rarely does a problem get better if left alone. No one likes confrontation or awkward moments, but leaders have to ‘man up’ and have the difficult conversation without delay. Here’s how to do it.
1. Ask yourself if the person in question understands your expectations around the issue. You need to be crystal clear about what you want them to do or not to do.
2. What is the outcome you want from the conversation? What does success look like? Be specific about what will make you happy.
3. Give some thought to how the person is likely to react. Try to predict their response. Now, think back to what you want to achieve from the conversation. You may want to change the tone or the words you are going to use. Having empathy is an important leadership quality.
4. Plan for the conversation. Book a time and a place. This will help convey the importance of the issue. Write down what you want to say – your key points, in the order you will say them. Practice having the conversation, keeping in mind how the other person is likely to react.
5. Be positive and firm. Keep your emotions in control. Know that the few moments of awkwardness are worth it.
Every day, strong leaders do things they don’t want to do. They do them because they know that leading isn’t easy and that the people they serve through leadership will benefit because of them. As with most things that stretch us, when we face up, practice and implement, we become good at them.
Do you have a story about a difficult conversation, good or bad?