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Tackling Tough Conversations with Your Staff

Tackling Tough Conversations with Your Staff

This might very well be one of the topics I most often get asked about, and see business owners, leaders and managers struggle with that dreaded feeling of having a tough conversation with a team member.

Do you love conflict? I didn't think so, that's probably why these conversations feel tough, and you quite likely avoid them, put them off, or worse still just opt out of having them. That dreaded feeling in the pit of your stomach, the sleepless nights, the avoiding of the kitchen area and hiding in your office. If that's you the thing to know is that you are absolutely not alone.

I don't like having these conversations either, I never have, and I've done the avoiding and postponing and rushing and all of the things. That's why I know for certain, not from the text books but from real life experience, that these conversations must happen, and they can happen productively. In fact putting it off only makes the conversation harder!

What I will tell you is that it's not always easy, you may always feel nervous and uncomfortable, but this is your business and your team, and if a conversation needs to happen it's up to you to make it happen. To help give you some structure to tacking these conversations these are my top tips.

  • Be courageous - this is where you need to have the courage to lead. No one said business, management and leadership was all unicorns and rainbows, or beer and skittles, this is part of what you signed up for. Also, this is YOUR business, and YOUR team, the responsibility it on you for the rest of the team to get this sorted. This means taking the deep breath and making it happen;
  • Pick your time and place - this is not a conversation to have in the kitchen whilst making a coffee, you need a quiet, private space, you need to both be prepared and have time set aside to be present. It's important that you select a time and place that really works for you, but also won't intimidate the employee unnecessarily, as this may result in them being more defensive from the outset;
  • Be clear - you really need to remove the emotion out of these conversations as much as possible. Whether it's anger, frustration, disappointment or anything else, the emotion will cloud your judgement in the meeting and make your message hazy. Deal with the actual real issue, be clear about what the issue is, how it effects you/ the team / the business, stick to the facts;
  • Listen - now this is a biggie and is easy to miss. It is entirely possible that the individual has no idea that they're in the wrong, so as always, seek first to understand. Allow them time to process what you have said and respond, again try and remain calm and minimise emotion here, listen to how they feel, what they are experiencing and their understanding of what has happened or what they have done;
  • Be solutions focused -  don't go into this meeting with no clue as to what you want the resolution to be. Have a clear and focused ideal outcome. However, be prepared to be flexible and work on an outcome to the problem that both you and the employee can be happy with;
  • Loop back - after all is said and done loop back around, what is the issue, how is it impacting others, what solution have you come to, and how / when will you be reviewing the success of this solution?


An Invitation
As business owners, leaders and managers, we all know that people are our most powerful asset, yet can also cause a few headaches from time to time. If you'd like to build an amazing team, take control and make sure you get it right when it comes to all things HR, and best of all have the freedom to create the successful business you deserve, we are excited to let you know about the opportunity to join us for 'Your People Powered Business.'

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Author:Kristy-Lee Billett
About: Kristy-Lee has worked in the field of HR and recruitment since 1999. She holds undergraduate qualifications in Psychology, a Masters in Human Resource Management, is an Professional Member of the Australian Human Resources Institute.
Connect via:LinkedIn

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