Your key volunteer is late to the mandatory meeting. (Again.) Your boss ignores your recommendation to the detriment of your team. (Once again.) Your assistant has a passive aggressive reaction to your request. (Yet again.) Your remodel contractor doesn’t follow through with what he promised he would take care of three weeks ago and you see it every time you walk into your new bathroom. (Letting it go.)
As a leader, these situations pop up all the time. An issue arises where opinions vary, emotions are strong and something needs to be done. We just aren’t sure where to start without hurting feelings, losing our cool, or worse.
To lead well, we have to get comfortable with initiating and facilitating critical conversations with those we lead. The following are 3 tips for your next critical conversation:
- Decide on your purpose: At the end of this conversation, what do you want to have happen? What do you want to accomplish? What are your intentions? (Are you wanting to win? Are you wanting to defend yourself and your position? Are you wanting to find the truth and a resolution?)
- Discover their perspective: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes: consider their perspective and communication style. Watch their body language and determine if they are receiving and responding or reacting and retaliating. If the other person is receiving your words and responding well, proceed. If they seem to be reacting, proceed with caution. If your words are met with retaliation, protect yourself and end the conversation.
- Determine the best time and place: For your purpose and the other person, what is the best time to talk? Being mindful of your purpose and the other person, where is the best place to converse? Some of the best advice I’ve been given on timing is to never talk about your feelings while you are still feeling them. Give yourself, and the other person, space to cool off and gather your thoughts. Also, give the other person advance notice about the conversation–nobody likes a significant conversation sprung on them.
And to really help you prepare, the following are my 3 favorite books around this topic:
- Boundaries Face to Face: How to have that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
- Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler
- Leading Women Who Wound by Dr. Sue Edwards
What helps you through a critical conversation? We’d love to hear your best advice and resources in the comments!
*You might also like my post about How to Know If You’re Wasting Your Breath.Julie Pierce is passionate about two things: empowering leaders to change the world and pursuing pie perfection. Julie is a leadership coach, consultant and communicator. Sign up here to receive her posts and Friday Favorites in your inbox. You can also follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.