5 Tips to Having the Tough Conversations

Tough Conversations

The Common Problem

This is a topic that comes up a lot within our line of work. The People Perspective gets called in, a lot of times, to help teams and businesses have the tough conversations! However, we don’t do anyone any service by having the tough conversations for leaders. Rather, we try to coach and empower the leaders we work with to better have those tough conversations themselves.

What is a Tough Conversation?

It may be the talk you have to have when an employee isn’t doing their job. Or the conversation you have when expectations are not being met. Maybe the business is going through some organizational changes and hard decisions have to be made. Whatever it is, it is usually categorized as tough because it is uncomfortable or very awkward. Well, lucky for you, we are experts in awkward and we are very comfortable being uncomfortable. Our President, Kristi Spaethe, has a whole presentation over that very topic.

This blog is to outline some tips on how to begin to have the tough conversations you or your leaders have been putting off.

  1. Be Self Aware.

It comes down to individual style and personality (read more about that here). Are you an avoidant style, a steamroller, very direct, a sugar coater or some other form of communicator? We all have tendencies, that I will refer to as backup styles. These are our style of communication when we are stressed or tired, this is our comfort zone. So, the first step to having tough conversations is really all about self-awareness. Identify what your backup style is and you will be able to combat or use that to get a more desired outcome from the tough conversation you’re trying to have.

  1. Plan the Conversation.

When you’re wanting to have a conversation that may be tough for you or the receiving party, don’t go into that conversation emotionally charged. For example, the employee that pushes all your buttons and makes another mistake that sends you fuming! That exact moment may not be the best time to have that conversation. It needs to be timely to create a relevant conversation but you want to come across level headed. Sit on the information, plan out what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it and what outcome you hope to get from the conversation. Let the emotions get out of the way. You want to have a clear direction. Not only will this lead to a more productive conversation but it will also give less chance for argumentative backlash.

  1. Offer Solutions.

When navigating a tough conversation no one wants to feel like they have less control of the situation or they are being completely steamrolled. For example, if you are having a conversation with an employee abut performance make sure you’re asking them “how can I help?”. “What ideas do you have to fix this?”, or “What’s going on?”. That way you are giving responsibility to the receiving party and a productive conversation can be the outcome with actionable solutions for change.

  1. Give the Other Person a Chance to Ask Questions.

This is in line with the previous tip. Give the receiving party some autonomy and say so. After you go through your outlined points in the conversation, open it up and ask them what questions they have. What ideas they have. The catch here is that you actually have to be open minded to hear what they have to say and be ready with a logical response. That goes back to having a firm understanding of what you want the outcome to be.

  1. Get Comfortable being Uncomfortable.

This is a phrase straight from Kristi’s training on The Art of Award, but it is so good! I have no secret sauce to take the awkwardness out of tough conversations. But if you become comfortable with the uncomfortable amazing things can happen; more productive conversations, better rapport between team mates, more invested employees, more honest employees, and the list goes on. Being open and authentic to having real conversation within business opens a whole other world. I can’t tell you how many employee meetings we have facilitated that when we are done the leader says “well, that was awkward”. It may have felt awkward but now we are making real progress in the business. Moving people up or moving people out.

We are Here for Extra Support!

I hope you can use some or all of these tips for your tough conversations and to empower your leaders as well. As always, if you need additional support navigating tough conversations, we are happy to facilitate, coach and empower to get you the results you are looking for. You can reach out to us for more information!

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