Having Challenging Conversations as a Leader

It can be uncomfortable to have “challenging” conversations, but it doesn’t have to be.

Don’t think of these conversations as challenging!

First of all, let’s stop labeling the conversations as challenging! Your subconscious is like an army ready to complete your every command, and you’re telling it that you have to have a “challenging conversation.” How do you think that makes the army feel? Defensive, ready to fight, ready for a “challenge.” So the first rule is: just call it what it is — a conversation. You will be blown away by how much easier this makes it for you.

We have conversations all the time!

Second, recognize that you have approximately 27 conversations per day, so having a conversation is a very normal thing to do! You want your people to feel this way too! When someone comes with you for a walk to have a conversation, it shouldn’t feel scary or weird, because we always have a lot of conversations with our team… Right? If you’re not having a lot of conversations with your team, please start. How’s your family? How is that project coming? How can we make your numbers better next month? See what I did there: that last one (“how can we make your numbers better next month?”) could definitely be thought of as a “challenging” conversation, but in my businesses with my team members, it isn’t because we have so many conversations about everything! The key here is to keep your cool, calm, loving, and supportive attitude (you know, the great leadership attitude you have 100% of the time) with you as you go into every conversation.

Don’t get angry

Some people have actually asked me, “If I am kind and calm and cool, how will they know I’m mad at them?” YOU’RE NOT MAD AT THEM!!! You are going to USE YOUR TOOLS to solve this challenge, and you’re going to continue to be the same amazing, kind and supportive leader as you do it.

In your toolbox

The tools are: your culture statements, mission statement, vision statement, job descriptions, KPIs, policies, procedures, and your QUESTIONS.

You may have heard me say that as a leader, questions are your superpower. This is so true. When you’re using a KPI and your questions for example, the conversation will go so smoothly you won’t even realize it was supposed to be challenging. By asking your team member how they think they can hit that KPI next month, and having THEM come up with the answer, you will have a much more successful and motivated employee. They will also have bought into the solution because they came up with it! No yelling involved.

Find a “sorry” 

I have one more secret for you: If you as a leader can find something to apologize for to start the conversation, you will lower their defences, and make it a much more pleasant and productive time. For example, “I am sorry I didn’t make your KPI more clear,” or “I am sorry I waited so long to talk with you about this,” or “I am sorry if you haven’t felt supported enough in hitting this KPI”. Start with sorry. And if you’re really committed to being a GREAT leader, you WILL find something to be accountable/responsible for in every situation.

It’s about trust

Lastly… when you have these great conversations, you’re BUILDING trust between you and your team member(s). If you have the other kinds of conversations, you’re destroying trust.

If you would like to learn more leadership tools or speak with Kelli-Rae, contact TMH Business Coaching and Consulting today for a confidential, free, no-obligation consultation to propel you forward. Also, please feel free to add yourself to our weekly coaching tips email!

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Kelli-Rae Tamaki

Kelli-Rae is truly passionate about successful business, and believes it can always be better, which is why she has spent 20 years studying, running, coaching and consulting with businesses, just like yours.
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