We often put off tough conversations because we don’t know how to broach the topic. That’s why we wrote this article: so you can lead with greater confidence, create healthier discourse with your team members, and achieve your goals.
All month long, we’ve been sharing why it’s important that small business owners and leaders Just Say It.
Just say what needs to be said to an underperforming team member.
Just say the feedback you have held off saying to someone who needs to hear the truth.
In our earlier article this month, we shared one of our favorite icebreaker questions to begin a hard conversation. Here, we will share several of our preferred ways to have tough conversations.
We often put off tough conversations because we don’t know how to broach the topic. We don’t want the conversation to turn into a shouting match. We often “catastrophize” an undesired outcome.
That’s why we wrote this article: so you can lead with greater confidence, create healthier discourse with your team members, and achieve your goals.
The Three Major Conversation Errors
We find three common errors small business leaders make when handling tough conversations.
- They assume they know all they need to know about the situation. Leave the door open to the possibility that you’ll gain more insight that could change your mind or the ultimate direction you will take with your team member.
- Small business leaders often hide or ignore their feelings. Perhaps the pending tough conversation you need to have is bothering you, but you would prefer to ignore those stressful or problematic feelings. Watch out for this. Unchecked feelings often have a way of coming to the surface in ways we don’t want during tough conversations.
- Small business leaders act as if their identities as leaders are separate from the issues at hand. If you aspire to be a good leader, then it is natural to feel that the problem issues with your team member must be a reflection of your leadership abilities. Go into the conversation with self-awareness and focus on the main issue at hand: addressing an underperforming team member.
Preparing for the Tough Employee Conversation
Preparation is key. Don’t assume you’ll “rise to the occasion.” Most often, we lower to the degree of our training and preparation. That’s why we recommend preparing a discussion guide for your tough conversation.
- What is the objective of the conversation? What results or outcomes do you seek?
- How will you communicate your desired outcome?
- How will you open and close your conversation?
- How do you think the employee sees their performance or behavior? How can you incorporate their input into your discussion?
- How will the employee most likely respond?
- If the employee response is most likely to be negative, how can you ensure the employee understands your concerns, even if they disagree?
- Do you need help? Who is the appropriate manager to assist you?
- Determine when, where, and how you will follow up.
Your Checklist for Tough Conversations
Tough conversations, by definition, are tough. Here’s a checklist to help you stay focused, present, and goal-driven.
- Establish the facts. Make sure your conversation is rooted in facts, not conjecture.
- Ask questions. Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.
- Actively listen. Don’t rehearse what you’ll say next. Listen actively to what the team member is sharing and observe body language for cues to guide how you will manage the conversation.
- Avoid pre-judgment. Nobody likes to be found guilty before a fair trial. Keep an open mind.
- Act professionally. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how tough conversations inflame our emotions, causing us to act less than professional.
- Aim for a win-win. What is the win-win result you desire that benefits you, the team member, and the organization?
Watch for “Catastrophizing” Thinking
Many small business leaders put off tough conversations because they “catastrophize” the outcome: assuming the worst possible outcome. Watch out for any stories you might be telling yourself about negative outcomes before having a tough conversation.
In other words, don’t dread the conversation. Instead, see it for what it could be: a chance to address an issue and make improvements. Tough conversations are opportunities for further growth: both for your team member and yourself.
Not all conversations are easy. And not all conversations go the way we would like. But these preparation tips and tough conversations checklist will further your effectiveness as a leader and invite a healthy conversation that can lead to a win-win solution.
Interested in other current employment trends? Click the link to view the recent blog: Interested in other current employment trends? Click the link to view the recent blog: Five Wage and Hour Violations That May Surprise You or check back for more on human resources, payroll, insurance, and benefits. or check back for more on human resources, payroll, insurance, and benefits.