We Need to Talk!
One of the biggest problems that exists in workplaces across Canada today are conversations that aren't being held, or if they are, they're not being done very well. These are called difficult discussions. They're stressful and awkward.
The problem is, if these conversations aren't held, organizations are held back. On the other hand, if they aren't done properly, feelings get hurt and sometimes good people leave jobs, affecting others. Sound familiar?
My advice is, if you need to have a difficult discussion in the workplace, do it. Before you do though, take time to prepare and my 5-step process will help considerably.
As You're Reading, I May Be Speaking
As this blog is being released, I’m doing my Talk Like a Leader workshop in Calgary. I was asked by APEGA, the organization representing engineers and geoscientists, to speak to some of its members to help them become better communicators.
This morning I’m speaking about ways people can become better communicators right away and also about difficult discussions – how to prepare for them and how to have them. We’ll also be doing some role-playing this morning as I coach people through the difficult discussions they need to have in the workplace and elsewhere.
There’s a process you need to follow before having that difficult discussion. I’ve developed this five-step process for difficult conversations to make your life a lot easier.
Before you have the discussion with the person or people involved, take a few minutes to plan and one of the first things you need to do is, decide what’s the one thing you want to come from the conversation.
There could be two or three outcomes, but try to focus on one. It makes it easier for you to concentrate and also helps you measure the outcome of the discussion. Did the person’s behaviour change? Did they start performing better? Is there a better culture in your organization as a result of your conversation?
Obviously, you need to plan what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. When you do that, say the words out loud (in privacy of course). You’ll find it’ll be easier to say the same words when you’re sitting across the table from somebody having that difficult discussion.
Make sure you spend extra time working on the first part of your conversation. Many people aren’t sure how to start the conversation and stumble badly at the beginning. Know what you’re going to say from the moment the meeting begins. This will allow you to look more confident and comfortable.
When you’re preparing for the conversation there’s obviously nobody to listen to, however you can plan questions you want to ask to get the thoughts of the other person or people involved. Remember, this isn’t a monologue, it’s a conversation and the outcome will usually be much better if the other person is allowed, and even invited to share their point of view.
What do you think? How would you feel about that? Those are great opened-ended questions to get the thoughts of the other person and keep them involved.
If you have to talk to somebody about their performance, or something similar, you can almost expect them to get defensive. It’s only human nature. As a result, you need to be prepared. Maybe it won’t happen and if it doesn’t that’s great, but you need to be prepared for what happens if the other person blames the problem on something or someone else.
It’s your job to keep the conversation on track. It can be really easy to get off on another tangent, so find ways in advance to counter arguments and keep the discussion focused.
You’ve come to the end of the discussion, you and the person you’ve been speaking to have come to an agreement, so you’re done right? No, you’re not.
It’s now time for you to summarize what was decided at the meeting, have the other person agree with it and then put what you’ve agreed to in an email or the other person and keep a record of it.
The conversation isn’t really over until there’s a written record of it.