Effective communication is the foundation of a thriving workplace. However, there are moments when hard conversations need to be had, where sensitive issues or conflict needs to be managed. These difficult conversations, though challenging, can pave the way for growth, understanding, and improved dynamics within a team or organization.
Set the Stage: When you engage someone in a conversation that might be difficult, there are some steps you need to take as a leader before you even begin. First, look at the issue from all angles. Consider the other person’s perspective and try to put yourself in their shoes – in both the problematic situation and the discussion about it. Remember, your goal isn’t to just call attention to a problem, but to work toward a solution.
In the Moment: Because stress is an emotional response, focus your conversation on logic for a more productive result. Start by highlighting the common goal or shared interests to establish a goal of collaboration. Avoid accusatory tones to prevent defensiveness and encourage open dialogue. A statement like, “You missed the deadline again,” is not very productive. Try a statement such as, “When deadlines are missed, it means other employees are stuck waiting. Is there a way to ensure that your deadlines are consistently met?” This structure emphasizes the problem and invites problem-solving action. Remember also to listen actively while the other person expresses their thoughts and feelings. Ask clarifying questions to dig deeper into the issue, fostering a more comprehensive view of the situation.
Wrap-up and Follow-Up: Once you’ve come to a solution, be sure to clarify each person’s role in it. Follow up after the conversation to gauge progress or revisit the discussion if needed.
We often get requests from clients to help leaders develop ways to hold their teams accountable. Our methodology in teaching accountability is that “clarity is kindness”. It’s important to realize that the first part of building accountability is communicating goals effectively, outlining expectations to meet those goals, creating deadlines, and everyone committing to a follow-up plan. Leaders need to be sure to be clear about what success looks like, the deadline, and how they will be monitoring progress. RGI consultants utilize accountability models and the Experience Cube to help leaders visualize and practice these conversations.
Difficult conversations are an inevitable part of professional life, but they need not be detrimental. When approached with empathy, a focus on the problem, and a commitment to accountability, these conversations can lead to positive changes, stronger relationships, and a healthier work environment. Remember, the goal of difficult conversations isn’t just resolution; it’s about fostering understanding and growth while preserving relationships and respect. With thoughtful communication and a willingness to engage in challenging dialogues, teams and individuals can navigate these conversations effectively, promoting a culture of trust, collaboration, and continuous improvement in the workplace. This approach paves the way for growth and success.