The strength of all relationships is relative to the amount of trust that exists between the two parties. When that trust wanes, it can put a strain on the entire team. Trust begins with leadership. The ability to take initiative and engage in difficult conversations is the indication of a great leader. However, many people seek to avoid conflict and therefore will defer from bringing up critical discussions. They are averse to discussing topics such as quotas, performance, poor attitude and colleague relations. According to VitalSmarts, $1,500 and up to eight hours of time are wasted on each critical conversation avoided.
Those who shy away from conflict may resort to text or email to engage in difficult conversations. Due to the inability of the recipient to gauge tone, and of the sender to gauge reaction, these means of conversation can often result in miscommunication.
Here are some helpful tips to engaging in difficult conversations:
- Begin the conversation with full transparency. Acknowledge that it will be a difficult conversation.
- Clearly state the problem, citing specific examples.
- Admit your role in the issue. Leaders usually have some blame, even if it is simply avoiding having the difficult conversation.
- Clearly state the desired outcome or result from the conversation.
- Solicit feedback on what has been discussed thus far.
- Share consequences if the desired outcome is realized.
- End the conversation on a positive note, thanking the person for engaging with you.
- Follow up later in the day or the next morning to gauge understanding and answer any questions that may have come up following the conversation.
Strengthening your leadership skills by strengthening your relationships will help instill trust within your teams. The key to building and maintaining trust is the ability to effectively engage in difficult conversations.