We’ve all been there – faced with the daunting task of having a difficult conversation. It’s natural to hesitate and delay because we fear the consequences. We convince ourselves it’s not that bad, and maybe the problem will resolve itself. We worry about hurting someone’s feelings or being disliked, so we avoid these crucial discussions. However, as a leadership coach, I’ve learned that avoiding difficult conversations can create more significant long-term issues, leading to dissension and resentment among team members. In this blog post, I’ll share my insights on how to navigate these challenging conversations successfully, and if you’re looking for personalized guidance, consider my coaching services to help you grow as a leader.

There is a cost of avoiding difficult conversations.  Let’s illustrate this with an example. Imagine a staff member who’s consistently late to work. This behavior affects the rest of the team waiting for their replacement at the customer service desk, causing delays in their schedules and impacting their other assignments and appointments. As a leader, you might hesitate to address this issue, fearing it could strain your relationship with the staff member.

I’ve been there, and I’ve had those exact thoughts. I believed that by postponing these conversations, I’d be liked more, but over time, I realized it was causing more harm than good. Team members weren’t aware of how their actions affected their colleagues, which resulted in growing dissatisfaction. Fortunately, after engaging in thoughtful conversations, we could identify underlying personal issues and collaboratively create solutions that benefited everyone.

Using my experience, I coach clients through difficult conversations.  When working with my clients, I help them overcome their reluctance to have difficult conversations. Here’s how I guide them through the process:

1. **Separate Emotions from the Situation: ** Emotions can cloud judgment. It’s essential to approach the conversation with a clear mind, focusing on the issue rather than personal feelings.

2. **Be Curious and Caring: ** Start by asking open-ended questions about how the team member perceives their performance and if there are any concerns. It’s possible there are underlying issues you’re unaware of that are contributing to the problem.

3. **Identify the Unwelcome Behavior: ** Clearly define the problematic behavior and explain how it’s affecting the team and putting the individual at a disadvantage.

4. **Identify the Welcome Behavior and Expectations: ** Communicate what behavior is expected and set clear expectations for improvement.

5. **Set a Timeline for Change and Follow-Up: ** Establish a timeline for making necessary changes, and schedule follow-up discussions to track progress.

The most challenging part of a difficult conversation can be setting it up. Ensure it takes place in a private area, away from the rest of the team, adhering to the principle of praising in public and correcting in private. Be fully present and eliminate distractions, including technology.

With thoughtful planning and a dose of courage, difficult conversations can transform into opportunities for better understanding, growth, and improved team dynamics. Taking prompt action and addressing issues head-on reduces stress and contributes to a happier, more productive team. If you’re ready to master the art of difficult conversations and become a more effective leader, consider reaching out for coaching services tailored to your needs. Your journey to better leadership starts here.

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