Your ability to speak up about issues that weigh you down is crucial to your success at work and life.—Maggie Warrell

As leaders we need to excel in communication, and that includes having difficult conversations. Have you ever been in a situation where you know you need to address negative behaviors or missed deliverables, and you feel it will be so uncomfortable it actually impacts your ability to sleep? If yes, you’re not alone.

Conducting a difficult conversation is quite frankly, difficult. As a result, we frequently let it fall to the bottom of our “to do” list, which only makes the situation worse (and allows our own anxiety to grow!).

Here are some tips:

Be specific and objective about the behavior or  situation you wish to discuss

Address the issue as soon as possible

Explain the impacts of the situation
1. Was there an impact to colleagues, business
partners, or clients? If yes, what?
2. Were any goals or desired results missed? Be
3. Is this a one-time issue or a re-occurring
4. Focus on the specific behavior/issue, NOT the
personality of the person

Allow the person to share their perspective
1. Actively listen and respond to what is being
2. Offer suggestions, solutions or development
opportunities if applicable
3. Was it a simple and isolated mistake? Was there

Avoid conducting the conversation in the midst of emotions and conflict
1. Deliver your message in a healthy, respectful
2. Stay focused and clearly state desired changes
3. Manage your emotions (remember, the delivery is
as important as the message!)

Expect and plan for objections/detours/obstacles; restate your expectations
1. Stay focused on what needs to change and why
2. Are consequences appropriate?
3. Provide feedback; share that the bottom line is to
help the person be more effective, improve
performance, relationships, etc

After you conduct your conversation, remember to summarize your specific agreement, and if appropriate, schedule a follow-up session.

What kinds of conversations keep you up at night? Make conducting them a priority!

Conversations create change . . .
–Ellen Page