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Difficult Conversations With Team Members: Your How-To Guide To Make Them Easier

Filed in Educational — April 14, 2023

Difficult conversations. We all dread them. The thought of one makes you shiver, your palms get sweaty and you have a flashback to the long ago time when you had one with your team leader that went horrifically wrong.

They’re awkward and uncomfortable and yet so, so integral to keeping your business running smoothly – so what if I said that they can be a little less difficult?

By approaching them correctly and developing the skill of conducting difficult conversations effectively, you can make them less daunting and difficult. 

Why do we need to have difficult conversations?

Prevent the issue becoming more damaging If not addressed in the initial stages, your issue will only become more problematic.
Things will only start to get more difficult and relationships will become more strained.
Eventually, this will have a detrimental effect on your business: stunt growth, halt progress and cost you money.
Be a role model for your teamBy speaking as the ideal leader that you’ve envisioned for yourself, you are modelling how a good leader should act for their team.
Being concise, forward and open ( or whatever you think a good leader should be like!)  reflects positively on other team members. 
You set an example of how to manage and resolve conflict so that not all of us have to have scarring memories of difficult conversations gone wrong! 
Promotes a good work ethic and supports your teamIt’s likely that the issue surrounding the difficult conversation is also affecting your team. 
Whether it be one team member not pulling their own weight or them taking liberties, by condoning their behaviour, you’re creating inequality in the workplace. 
You’re letting standards slip, you’re treating team members unfairly and de-motivating them.
Your team therefore isn’t working how you envisioned it to be.

How can you improve your ability to have difficult conversations?

  1. Accept that they are a part of your business journey

Ultimately, they are inevitable. Somewhere down the line, they will occur and will be unavoidable.

So why not just accept that and try to make them less difficult? 

View it as a way to push boundaries within yourself and your business. A way to test and improve your leadership skills to make you a highly capable and efficient leader long term.

  1. Alter your mindset. 

Choose to view difficult conversations as a positive step towards personal and business growth. 

Be excited at the possibility for further success as a result of resolving an issue. 

Be confident in their being a positive outcome, embrace that although they may cause difficulties now, things will be all the better later down the line.

How to have a difficult conversation – Questions to ask yourself: 

  1. Decide when/where you are going to have the conversation. 
  • Can the issue be raised in a casual conversation?
  • Does it need to be in a formal setting?
  • Do you need to have the conversation before any big projects begin in your business?

  1. Approach it purposefully and concisely
  • Are you being direct and focused solely on the issue?
  • Are you speaking within reason and not taking out your anger on the other person?
  • Are you setting a positive example of how to manage conflict?

  1. Listen to what the other person has to say
  • Can they explain or even justify their actions? 
  • Do they know that they are in the wrong?
  • Do they have any feedback for you?

(Nobody is infallible – even yourself!)

  1. Agree on your next steps
  • Has the issue been addressed fully?
  • Have you reached a conclusion?
  • Have you resolved the issue?
  • Do you have a clear course for action going forwards? (TOP TIP – document this in a place where both parties can access it and be held accountable!) 

A key thing to remember is that nobody wants an argument (and if they do, are they really the type of person you want working within your business?).

Nobody wants to cause upheaval and distress and so everybody will naturally aim for the conversation to go as smoothly as possible. 

That being said, it does still mean that you have to explore all aspects of the conversation, no matter how difficult or awkward or confrontational it gets. Leave no stone unturned. 

If you’d benefit from more advice on this topic, then listen to Episode 52 of the Honest Business Podcast:  ‘Having Difficult Conversations With Team Members’  here.

May’s practical, no b.s approach to growth and success is prominent in her work as a business consultant and could be the essential advice that your business needs. Explore your options for working with May here.

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