How to Have Difficult Conversations

having difficult conversationsHaving difficult conversations is one of the toughest aspects of being a leader.

Terminating someone, in my opinion, is the hardest thing. But having difficult conversations is second, and avoiding these conversations can often lead to having to terminate someone.

If you can’t make hard decisions or have hard conversations, don’t become a parent and don’t become a manager.

Most managers are not living up to their responsibility of having the tough conversations.

Tough conversations are about a variety of topics; performance, attitude, coming to work on time, poor communication,  all are topics that are difficult to talk to people about. And so many managers avoid having the conversations they should have.

The power you hold in your hands as a leader is tremendous. Depending on how you role model, how you develop, and how you handle difficult conversations can determine if an employee becomes good or if they become great. Avoiding tough conversations is hurting people who look to you to help them succeed.

Being clear and upfront when you hire an employee can cut down on the difficult conversations you have to have. But even if you do a great job with clarity when you hire, you will still have to have difficult conversations with people.

When someone is doing something that needs to be improved, you don’t have to save up a list of transgressions. You don’t have to be historical.

You can have the entire conversation in 90 seconds. Here are the steps:

Bring up the current incident.

Be clear about what is happening.

Be clear about expectations.

Leave it that. It is that simple to let someone know they need to come to work on time or stop being rude in meetings.

Make sure you are having these conversations. Don’t avoid it. You know which conversations you need to have. You know what you have been putting off. You know what is happening that will eventually hurt people or cause a problem if you don’t take care of it. And you know what other employees are talking about. If you don’t take care of the issue, if you don’t have the difficult conversations, it makes you look bad as a leader. Others are paying attention to how you handle the situation.

Often, when people are not told someone is wrong, they will take it as acceptance.

If you want to get better at having difficult conversations, consider reading these books;

One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Paterson

Also, check on Dan Cockerell’s podcast episode about the Power of Feedback.