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  • Jesse Arnoldson

Get More Out of Tough Talks

Confronting employees about difficult issues, such as poor work performance, can be one of the most uncomfortable and difficult parts of a leader’s job. How is it that some can get the results they want and others end up making the situation worse?

While many give some forethought to what they might say, most only prepare themselves for the soapbox speech and whether they can live without the employee if the person doesn’t agree. Fortunately there are a number of key points that you can think about that should improve some of those conversations and what comes from them.

  • Get the conversation taken care of as soon as possible. Waiting does no one any good. In fact, the longer you go without confronting the problem the harder it will be to convince the person that it really is a problem.

  • Don’t beat around the bush. Think about how you can make your point as clear and brief as possible so that there is less confusion and you can move on to talking about the solution.

  • Let them talk but think about how you might appropriately intervene if they begin to make excuses, shift blame or talk in circles. It’s important that the person leaves the conversations feeling accountable; this means that they feel ownership while at the same time not feeling completely deflated.

  • Be overly clear on expectations, timelines for improvement and potential consequences.

  • Follow up and follow through. Be sure that you follow up and do so within the timelines that you set. Be sure to recognize and dole out praise when performance improves, even if it seems like a small thing that has changed.

These won’t guarantee 100% perfect results but they should prove to be a worthwhile exercise for any difficult conversation or intervention. Whether you follow this or something like “Crucial Conversations”, be sure to give each of these the thought and time they deserve.

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