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Challenging conversations and leading a team are discussions our trainers often have with our course participants. Building a team can have its challenges, as I am sure we all know. Sometimes it will be around engagement, occasionally it will be around performance issues or some impending change.

The reality is that when you are managing a team, there are going to be times when you are faced with having a challenging conversation which could be on a variety of topics.

During my career, I have had to face a few of these conversations, and I am sure you have too.

As a leader or manager, there will be many challenging situations and people to deal with such as;

  • Dealing with poor performance; team and individual.
  • Managing team conflict.
  • Handling unhappy clients.
  • Dealing with external stakeholders and the list goes on.

The good news is that there are multiple ways to handle these various challenges that I want to share with you today.

1. Be A Pro

While you may feel annoyed, angry, or want to swear, or scream and shout; please don’t, it rarely works.  One of our training team once said to me, Rachel,  “it is not the person it is the process”.

Think about it, what in the process do you need to tweak to make sure this situation does not happen again. It may be that you have jumped to conclusions; more often than not it boils down to a communication issue.

Remain professional always, take the emotion out and deal with the facts; it is a skill any of us can learn and is vital for a leader.

 2. Think Win-Win Rather Than, I Am Right

Start with the end in mind as Stephen Covey reminds us in the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Think win-win. In challenging situations, you will often find that miscommunication is the cause, often coupled with poor coaching or leadership.

Often when we are having these challenging conversations, the cause of the problem boils down to a lack of communication, especially around goals and performance.

It can be easy to go into a conversation wanting to be right about what’s going on. Stop yourself from doing this. Remember, you will not know what’s happening until you uncover the facts. Then you can plan how to resolve the situation going forward.

It may be that Neal or Rebekah are poor performers and their behaviour and results need to change. If that is the case, it will be a win-win for all concerned.

 3. Chant the Mantra: We Are All Different

As many of you know, I have a personal passion for learning and development and a fascination with the human psyche in all it is many manifestations. This has taught me a lot over the years, and it has made me appreciate a couple of things around two beliefs that I hold related to the topic we are discussing.

a) Everyone has a positive intention for his or her action or behaviour.

b) That people are doing the best that they can with the resources they currently have available.

I genuinely believe people do not set out to be difficult. They have a different map of the world than you or I that is all. It is your role as a leader to adapt your style to get the best out of them.

So, think win-win and walk into a conversation with the mindset that we are all different. Then seek first to understand before you make any decision and see what a difference it makes to your ‘challenging’ conversation.

4. Seek First to Understand – Start With The Facts

As human beings, we can make assumptions and judgements based on our map of the world or worse still what someone has told us. This is another reason to stop yourself from wanting to be right as I have mentioned already.

In the words of Stephen Covey; ‘seek first to understand’. Ask questions and establish the facts before you do anything.

5. Take The Helicopter View

Stand back and look at the facts at hand.  This is where I find the principle of cause and effect helpful. Simply, for each effect, there is a cause that preceded it.

Using an underperforming team member as an example:

  • Is it a skill or a motivational issue?
  • How engaged is the person?
  • Have you been providing the appropriate level of support?

6. Skill Up On Coaching

Every day is a school day, or so a friend of mine says, and I agree. The only way we can improve is by learning and growing. A vital part of this is developing self-awareness. Coaching is an excellent way to do this with team members. While many managers have been trained in coaching, creating more profound change with individuals requires more advanced coaching skills.

Make it important to continue developing this critical skill area. You and your team will receive a huge benefit.

Until next time

Tom Hallett

About Excel Communications

Excel Communications has a 30-year history as a global leadership and communication skills organisation dedicated to exceeding the expectations of clients through the training and development of their business and people.

We have a team of expert trainers delivering programmes across four continents in multiple languages. Isn’t it time you got in touch? Call us now on +44 (0) 1628 488 854.