I came across this teaching through a leadership organization to which I belong. Since it dovetails off of what I taught this past weekend, I thought I'd share. Here it is:
Connecting With People: The Leader’s Greatest Skill
How to Conduct Tough Conversations
In this month’s lesson, John begins by talking about four mistakes he made early on in his leadership walk in regards to connecting with others. The fourth and final mistake he shares, and the one that resonated most with me, was his admission that he failed to initiate important but difficult conversations.
I’m so glad to hear John address this because this is a challenge that many leaders make early on in their careers; in fact, it’s one that many of us continue to make today! For this month’s application piece I’d like to take a closer look at the nine action steps John shares for how to conduct a tough conversation and exactly what we can do within each step to ensure that every tough conversation is an opportunity for a stronger relationship and professional growth.
Meet privately ASAP.
¨ Once you observe the need for a critical conversation, schedule the meeting ASAP. Don’t let it linger.
¨ Upon scheduling the meeting, set the tone before the meeting so that the employee comes to the meeting with the right mindset. Here are some examples:
“Take a deep breath and come mentally prepared. There are a few performance items I need to discuss with you.”
“There’s no need to prepare or bring anything to the meeting but an open mind. We need to discuss a few things, and I’d like you to be in listening mode.”
Assume good motives.
¨ Approach the conversation with a “coaching mindset.” You’re not creating an argument. You’re helping someone improve and develop. The goal is to put the person at ease so their defenses come down.
¨ Remember that every tough conversation is an opportunity for growth.
¨ Help set the environment for your positive motives in holding this meeting by engaging in a little lighthearted small talk for a few minutes prior to the conversation.
¨ Give the employee one or more specific examples that illustrate the problem or your reason for having the tough conversation.
Explain the negative impact of those behaviors.
¨ Specifically illustrate how the employee’s behavior impacts the following:
Their opportunity to lead up to you
Their own job value
Ask for their side of the story.
¨ Let the other person respond so that they feel they have the opportunity to give their point of view. (Note: Even if there is no way the person is in the right, allow them to express their stance.)
¨ Don’t debate; listen and coach when appropriate.
Find points of agreement.
¨ Practice the 101 Percent Principle – Find the one percent you both agree on and give that 100 percent of your effort. For example:
You both want what is best for the team.
You both want the individual to grow as a leader.
¨ Emphasize these points of agreement when establishing a plan for moving forward.
Set out a future course of action.
¨ After listening to the employee’s point of view and emphasizing your points of agreement, share your decision of how you should move forward. Remember, it’s your call how you steward the team. It’s okay to put your stake in the ground and be firm with your decisions.
¨ Talk through how the employee will handle a similar situation next time, based on your conversation. For example, you might ask:
“How will you handle your emotions the next time you’re in that situation?”
“How are you going to change the direction of the failing plan?”
“How will you make sure all invoices are paid on time in the future?”
Validate the value of the person and the relationship.
¨ As you bring the tough conversation to a conclusion, be sure to point out the integral role this person holds on the team.
Express your commitment to help.
¨ If your mindset is to serve, rather than to be served, you will likely encounter less resistance.
¨ Encourage the employee when you see them exhibiting the behavior that you discussed.