Coaching Our Executives:
Transforming Difficult Conversations
We experience them at home. In the boardroom. At parent/teacher meetings. Difficult conversations are par for the course. They are simply part of life.
What’s more – stress in the workplace is inevitable. Conflict and/or difficult conversations are to be expected when we’re dealing with an unexpected influx of new customers or a major drop in clientele. It certainly rings true when we’re dealing with a merger or acquisition or trying to do some succession planning.
Ever have one of your top direct reports absolutely blow it? He’s your top direct report. You trust the guy. He’s good. I mean, really good. After all, that’s why you put them on this major project.
But he’s are also human. Unless he knows how to handle difficult conversations (I mean the really tough ones), he might not come out unscathed. Worse, he might even screw things up.
Below are some tips for coaching your executives through learning the ropes of difficult conversations. Consider showing him why each of these are so important (it will help drive things home)
- Avoid trying to force someone to listen to you. It’s the fasted way to get them to tune you out
- Avoid defending yourself. I know it’s hard to resist, but it’s not necessary most of the time. It usually throws the conversation off kilter
- Let the other person save face. Is it really necessary to hit below the belt?
- Avoid bias. Remove blame in the words you choose
- Avoid shooting the messenger
- Seldom is there a need to use the word ‘but’ in a difficult conversation. It only negates everything that was said prior to uttering the word
- Using words like ‘no’, ‘never’, or ‘not’ don’t need to be used as often as they tend to be during a difficult conversation. Try reframing the words you choose to deliver the same message without causing the other person to naturally turn up the defense
And most of all… refrain from responding at all at least and until you’re at a comfortable (and fair) plane. Click here to read more about creating a workplace culture where difficult conversations aren’t such challenging endeavors. Lead your workforce into learning how to transform difficult conversations into productive opportunities.
Difficult conversations can be so productive because they serve as a catalyst for growth. Displacing blame is one of the most powerful advantages you hold during a challenging conversation because you are exuding genuine interest in discovering a resolution.
But knowing how to conduct them can mean the difference between a constructive conversation and a path to nowhere.
What has been the cost to your company when the real issue isn’t addressed?