In business and leadership, sometimes the best way to move forward is the ability to have a ‘ straight up’ conversation. Sounds easy? Often this is harder then you imagine and if attempted without some basic fundamentals and the right approach, these discussions can cause more harm than good and not necessarily deliver the desired outcome.
Potential Issues if not planned and a smart approach applied may include:
- An employee that is dis engaged, demoralised or feels aggrieved
- Your intended message being entirely lost
- A huge amount of your time involved in resetting and addressing issues raised as a result of the person mis understanding your communication
- Wider impact with their peers and others they may discuss this with
- A personal grievance/ formal process engaged
‘Sometimes it is tough to be a leader and the pressures of time and a desired outcome may cause you to act in haste … however caution that you do not do this and consider the larger consequences for your time, energy and the impact on your people’.
So how do you approach such discussions for a mutually engaging and successful outcome, whilst not shying away from the messaging and ensure outcomes are agreed and understood?
Start with the following:
- Set aside time for the discussion and ensure the person is prepared wherever possible in advance for the discussion
- Understand your ‘WHY’ and what you wish to achieve from the meeting?
- Do not move these meetings once locked in, wherever possible
- Ensure an appropriate space for the meeting and prepare for the fact the person may not always respond as you expect so a private space is always best, even for an informal straight up discussion.
At the meeting:
- Set the scene, providing a summary of what you wish to discuss and why
- Ask for them to prepare to have a ‘straight up /frank discussion and their permission to do so and to speak freely both ways
- Present the issues/ challenges and focus on FACTS & BEHAVIOURS (with examples) and refrain from any subjective comments or personalised statements.
- Provide the person with time to respond and share their thoughts and perspectives
- Ask them for potential solutions and if they need time to go away and reflect and come back to you, allow this and encourage this , with some agreed deadlines and next steps, to come back together and discuss how to move forward.
- Reflect and cover off what you have discussed, with key points (encourage note taking to ensure you are not relying on memory and can refer back to these always)
- Thank people for their time and ensure they leave with a plan and focused on desired outcomes , not feeling personally attacked but rather focused on what they now need to do.
- Last but not least, follow up with an email and key notes/ actions to ensure clarity and a referral point for next steps
Whilst this may look like a time consuming process, the reality is that it is rather fluid and as a habit, should in fact save you time in the long run and not take much time at all.
Think about a time when someone sprung something on you and you were not provided any forewarning vs the times you have had a heads up and been given some mental preparation in advance? What was the difference in how you responded and how you felt about that leader?
Michelle & Wayne are Co-Directors and Founders of Fusion Partners, delivering consulting and recruitment services.