Difficult Conversations
Great managers are great communicators.  Check out these attributes of great manager conversations because even great managers dread certain difficult conversations about:

  • Pay
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Poor performance
  • Resolving conflict
  • Promotions
  • Letting someone go
  • Change

Who can blame them?  Tough conversations are hard to get right, often cause unintended consequences, and typically leave people feeling uneasy.

Attributes of Great Manager Conversations
How good are your managers at handling these uncomfortable situations with grace, agility, fairness, empathy, and clarity? Because they tend to be emotionally charged, difficult and high stakes conversations are best handled after thoughtful preparation if you want a positive outcome.

Beware of the Pitfalls
Based upon feedback from thousands of new manager training participants, we know that managers need to beware of three common hurdles to overcome.

  • Power Dynamics
    First, recognize that there is an imbalance in the power dynamics. As the manager with an employee who reports to you, you have the immediate advantage which can put your employee on edge and create defensiveness.
  • Different Objectives
    Second, know that, from the start, your employee may have an entirely different purpose. They thought they were being called in for praise on their latest project while you need to shift them to a different role because of their substandard performance
  • Lack of Data
    Third, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of “he said, she said.” When employees do not have high levels of self-awareness, it can be surprising for them to hear difficult feedback.

All three possible obstacles to success can easily sabotage a positive outcome.

5 Attributes of Great Manager Conversations
Make sure you plan ahead for the difficult conversation and keep these attributes in mind as you design the goal, the flow, and the desired result of your conversation:

  1. Confirm Your Intention
    Your purpose should be to come to a mutual understanding that moves things forward in a way that makes sense.  Remember that your role as a manager is to support your employees and help them perform and grow.
  2. Set the Stage
    The best managers set the stage for honest, productive, and open dialog. Reduce the imbalance in power as much as you can by moving out from behind your desk, being open to their perspective, and putting yourself in their shoes.
  3. Listen Actively
    Though you have planned the conversation according to your own perspective, you may not have all the facts. Ask about and then listen carefully to your employee’s point of view and goals for the meeting.
  4. Check for Understanding
    Are you sure you clearly understood the employee’s perspective? Rephrase what you think they were saying to be sure you got it.
  5. Seek Together a Path Forward
    Now it’s time to shift from talk to action. Agree upon steps that will improve the situation that prompted the conversation in the first place. What steps can you and your employee take to move forward? Even if it’s only a commitment to a next meeting, don’t break apart until you agree on a next step.

The Bottom Line
Great manager conversations don’t just happen. Great managers carefully design a plan beforehand and commit to a meaningful, satisfactory outcome. Are you ready to count yourself among the “great” when it comes to difficult conversations?

To learn more about being a great manager, download 7 Immediate Management Actions to Create Alignment with Goals


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