You know this already: Avoiding tough conversations does not resolve them. It only leaves them to worsen and often leads to deteriorating the effectiveness of your team.
It is not always easy to engage in these tricky exchanges. However, if you are one of the leaders who is acutely aware, that in order to reach your organizational goals you must learn to manage those tough conversations, then keep reading.
Jennifer (not her real name) came to a coaching call infuriated with her boss. Jennifer was a middle manager and found herself entangled in a triangle of sorts with her boss, herself and her team. Often her boss would undermine Jennifer in meetings. He would make a decision, without knowing all the facts, and announce it before conferring with Jennifer.
By the time we got onto our Coaching call, this had happened numerous times. Jennifer was noting not only how much it triggered her anger, but also prompted ineffectiveness in the team. The team didn’t know whom to believe anymore. Some staff members, who were loyal to Jennifer, kept doing things the way Jennifer had previously instructed them to do so. Others followed the big boss’s way. As such, it was all a big mess! Worse, Jennifer felt undervalued and unsupported.
Through coaching, Jennifer was able to get reconnected to why she needed to engage in this potentially intimidating conversation with her boss. She was passionate about her staff members being supported and wanted them to be given solid supervision.
Jennifer also realized that in a “perfect” situation, her boss would recognize incongruences in messaging and deal with it himself. However, life isn’t perfect. She knew she needed to be the one to tackle the problem head-on. She did just that. She arranged a time to meet with her boss and shared her concerns.
Now, of course (remember this isn’t a perfect world), he didn’t quite see the story the way Jennifer did. He did though become more aware of checking with Jennifer before he issued new standards of practice. For Jennifer, she felt more confident and sure of herself. Stepping into the arena, she found she could fight her own battles rather than hoping it would magically disappear.
I bet you can relate
Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, sandwiched between frontline staff and management. Other times you may have found it is the supervisor who isn’t dealing with their staff and you see the mistakes happening. In that place, the tough conversation needs to happen with your subordinate encouraging them to handle their reports more effectively. It could also be peer-to-peer where your co-worker is stirring the pot causing havoc on the team.
The Steps to Handling Tough Conversations
When you realize there is a storm brewing and you know it’s not going away, it is probably time to wrestle the tough conversation yourself. Below find the steps that will assist you in moving through the challenge.
Taking the Bull by the Horns puts you back in control
Dealing with challenging exchanges is not always easy. I encourage you however to take the initiative. You will no doubt need to find your confidence and courage to engage in these conversations. But by moving through difficult conversations rather than avoiding them you will find not only your team more effective but that you are able to enjoy your work more and find fulfillment in what you do.
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.