“Remind yourself that if you think you already understand how someone feels or what they are trying to say, it is a delusion. Remember a time when you were sure you were right and then discovered one little fact that changed everything. There is always more to learn.” ― Douglas Stone, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
Nobody wants to have them. It’s easy to give critique to your employees and it turns into an ugly, blaming conversation—from both sides. But, what if we could have a hard conversation that turned productive and positive? As a manager, how do you prepare yourself for a hard conversation?
- Mental preparation: The tough work starts before the conversation even takes place. You need to make sure you are in the right mental state to receive what will be said back to you. Just because you think you know all the facts about a situation—doesn’t mean you’re right. The person across the table from you may have had a very different outlook, and you need to be ready to listen. Be open to their response and story. Stay away from your attack back
- Keep your guard up, and your defensiveness down: During the conversation, it’s common to feel that both sides need to be on the defense at all times—but you need to let go of your emotional protection. The only way to bring walls down and have a productive conversation is to come ready to knock the barriers down.
- Take the lead: It’s good for the manager to drive and direct the conversation. Since you’re mentally prepared, and hopefully your employee is too, it still is good for you to have a prepared agenda for the smoothest results. They are looking for leadership and new direction from you.
As long as your difficult conversations are filled with purpose to have a great outcome, there’s no need to fear it. Be as prepared as you can—and never let selfish gain be your goal. Keeping a clean slate with all working relationships will always pay off for both parties. Sometimes you work with people a lot longer than you intend, or even run into them at other companies. Handling situations right will prove to never be wrong.