One of the biggest concerns my CEO clients have is their ability to have difficult conversations with their top executives.
When handled with sensitivity, humility, and respect, these conversations can be highly effective tools to build trust and exchange feedback that is critical to the growth of the company.
Having a healthy dialog is easy when you follow these steps:
1: Focus on behaviors, not personal attacks.
STEVE: “Jon, I’d like to discuss Lisa. She is consistently late, and it’s difficult to reach her on her cell phone. Because of her recent behavior, I’m reluctant to assign her to our new client. Since she reports to you, what are your thoughts about the situation?
2: Summarize what you have heard, and ask for confirmation or clarification.
JON: “Steve, thanks for sharing your concerns. Let me make sure I understand. You’ve noticed Lisa is consistently late and unavailable, and therefore you are not assigning her to a project, correct?”
3: Confirm or clarify.
STEVE: “Yes exactly. I’m not going to assign her, which means she is not going to be billable.”
4: Validate the concern, and ask permission to provide your perspective.
JON: “I can definitely appreciate your concerns especially since our billing was down last month. Can I share with you some additional information that may help you to better understand the whole picture?”
5: Remain open to new ideas, information, and perspectives.
STEVE: “That would be great. I’m surprised at her recent performance.”
From this point in the conversation, it’s important to view both parties as a team; as two sides of one coin. Removing he-said-she-said bickering, and remaining focused on outcomes, will direct the conversation away from personalization, and into what is good for the organization.
Every organization has conflict. It is a natural by-product of people working together. Healthy, proactive communication prevents small issues into snowballing into destructive problems that are difficult or impossible to solve.
Organizations that avoid difficult conversations are often infused with chaos, unmet expectations, and mistrust. Healthy communication is the necessary foundation for growth and engagement in all organizations.
For more information on how to set the stage for a difficult conversation, and how to ensure you are personally in a good frame of mind, read my Inc. Magazine column, Seven Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself Before Initiating Every Difficult Conversation.
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“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”