We put them off. We hold back when we have them. We pass the buck to someone else to be the one to deliver them.
What are these things? It’s the hard conversations we know we MUST have but are unwilling to have.
Why Hard Conversations Suck
We put off hard conversations because, well, they’re hard. Bringing faults or poor performance to someone you are leading hurts.
The conversations bring up hard feelings and bad business. We’re even possibly laying out reasons for someone to be removed from their position in this talks.
It’s not fun.
We’re dealing with people. People who have emotions. People who have families to provide for. People who have desires to do good work.
And our conversations are telling them something is wrong.
This is why the hard conversations suck…
Why We Must Have The Hard Conversations
By putting off a hard conversation, we think we’re doing people a favor. We’re sparring them the guilt of a job done not well. We’re “giving” them an opportunity to improve without correction. We’re placating them.
But this isn’t reality. By holding back the conversations that matter, we’re damaging our people.
When you don’t talk to those you lead about what’s happening, you’re doing these things:
Holding back critical information
Hiding what needs improvement
Coddling people who don’t need to be coddled
Damaging your business or non-profit
Creating a rift in your marriage
Difficult conversations HURT in the present, but they HEAL the future.
Without our expressing what is wrong, we’re holding back the potential of others. We can’t lead others when we’re not willing to speak up.
Speaking up tells the person you respect them. You know that they’ve got their big boy pants on. And that they want to improve.
This is why we must have hard conversations…
How To Have A Difficult Conversation
The sandwich method has long been a favorite way to hold a challenging conversation. The thought is that the one who is on the receiving end will leave knowing what is wrong but still feel okay about himself.
I’ve thought this method was great for quite some time as well. However, I think there’s a better way to deal with the tough conversation now.
Take immediate action – This action is calling a meeting and holding it as soon as possible. The quicker the conversation happens to the action, the better.
Be extremely clear – We often pussyfoot our way around the conversation. We bring in an example of what we’ve done in the past and how it’s impacted others. All the while, we don’t bring up specific examples of the improper actions you’ve seen.
When you have to sit down with an employee or volunteer, be very clear on what’s wrong. Tell them: John, you’ve been late to the last 5 meetings or Sally, I’ve observed you on Facebook the 4 times in the last week.
Specific examples of bad behavior lets the person know what the problem is and that it’s not expected.
Give action steps to correct the issue – Now that we’ve immediately taken action and have been clear on what’s wrong, we need to be willing to help the person correct the improper behavior. We do this by laying out action steps that will either clear up the problem or show us that this employee doesn’t belong on the bus.
The steps taken to correct the issue must be clear as well.
For John, layout what he can do. Tell him he needs to show up on time to the next 5 meetings. If this cannot be done, further action will be taken.
For Sally, you tell her that Facebook is not a part of her job. Let her know that she must not be on Facebook during business hours but she may access it during her lunch and break periods.
Difficult conversations aren’t easy. There’s a reason for that and we know it.
However, if you follow these steps, our difficult conversations become easier. We have a plan on how to deal with them and how to have them.
Stop putting off the conversations you don’t want to have. You know how to have them, now have them.