How to have less difficult conversations by having more adult ones

  • Many leaders avoid having ‘difficult’ conversations but avoidance only delays or exacerbates issues.
  • Teams often focus on outcomes but rarely do spend enough time establishing and agreeing on the norms around how the work will be done.
  • This article provides five ideas to better manage situations in the future.

One of the most common challenges leaders face is how to have the ‘difficult’ conversation. When I’m coaching a leader who is avoiding such a conversation, I ask them, ‘What’s stopping you from having it?’. 

More often the not these leaders tell me, ‘I really don’t like confrontation’ or ‘I don’t want to damage the relationship.’ The latter being particularly common with leaders who have been promoted from within the team they now lead. The irony is by aiming to avoid difficult conversations, leaders end up having to have more.  

By seeking to avoid confrontation in the moment, leaders end up with more confrontation down the track, and in a bid to preserve the relationship today, it’s likely to suffer tomorrow, when direct reports ask, ‘Why didn’t you just tell me sooner?’. If the ‘difficult’ conversation is a challenge for you consider these five ideas to better manage situations in the future.  

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