Managers in every industry share one thing in common: They work with people. And when managers work with people, they will be called upon at times to have potentially difficult conversations. Regardless of the scenario, managers can prepare to navigate difficult conversations. Here are five tips for team leaders who are preparing to have a tough conversation with a team member.
Prepare for the conversation beforehand.
It’s easy for emotions to take control during difficult conversations. Reduce the risk of losing focus by preparing for the conversation in advance. Identify the key issues to discuss in the conversation, any consequences or other information the employee needs, and what you consider ideal, acceptable, and unacceptable outcomes. Ask yourself “If I had to give this person the takeaway in one sentence, what would it be?”
Address the situation privately.
Having a difficult conversation in public makes the process far more difficult. Instead, talk to the employee one on one. Minimize distractions and make sure no one in the office can eavesdrop. Making the conversation private allows you and the employee to focus on the issues and speak without public pressure.
Actively listen to your employee’s perspective.
Sometimes, the best way to start a difficult conversation is simply to ask “What happened?” Your employee’s response will tell you a great deal. By starting this way, you also give the employee an opportunity to tell their story and to feel heard – which goes a long way to defusing any defensiveness or tension the other person may feel. Listen to the employee’s perspective, even if it doesn’t change your ultimate answer.
Work with your employee to identify solutions.
It is far easier for people to accept solutions they had a hand in creating. You may also start this process with a question: “What do you think should happen next?” or “What can we do to change/prevent this?” Get the employee actively involved in envisioning and planning positive change.
Create a clear plan of action going forward.
Plans and promises mean little if they aren’t followed by change. Set goals, create an action plan, and identify the factors you’ll be using to measure your employee’s progress.