Having The Tough Conversations

Charismatic manager during a meeting with an employee

By John Burwell, Jr., Service & Sales Coach

Have you ever found yourself in a situation with a employee who is a long trusted part of the team, someone liked by all, including you; but lately something is off. You’re not seeing the results you expect and his behavior has changed. One thing is for certain, a conversation needs to take place. How can we position ourselves as leaders to have this conversation as productively as possible?

Here are some points I have found to be helpful:

Have your facts straight

  • Pull reports
  • Identify specific items of concern, write them down and make a few notes around them to refer back to if necessary
  • Reflect on your goal for this conversation. What do you want the outcome to be?

Manage your emotions

  • Avoid taking it personal, chances are it is not about you anyway
  • Remember you have had time to think about this conversation, they may not be aware of the behavior or result you are not happy with
  • Depending on the level of change in behavior/result you may want to sleep on it to be sure your emotions are in check and you are clear headed
  • Do your best to stay balanced

The conversation

Here are some key points to incorporate during the conversation to continue the theme of productivity.

  1. Let them do most of the talking. Through open ended questions you will draw out information. You want to understand their perspective and identify what behaviors you can coach to get result back on track
  2. Be clear about your position and expectations. Never leave them to guess about what you want them to change
  3. Take notes to document the conversation, keep everyone on the same page with what is required moving forward

It is important that you consider the impact you will have on not only the individual being coached but on the entire team. I call it the ripple effect. Whether you believe it or not the rest of your organization will hear about it. Good or bad, news gets around. It is what it is, and it’s important that we are mindful that it exists.

Having the tough conversations and having them early on will allow everyone to get back on track and move forward productively. You’ll only regret the conversations you put off.


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