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Leadership Tools Monthly News, November 2011
November 30, 2011

Leadership Coaching
Leading Difficult Discussions


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Volume IX - November, 2011 Issue

  1. Site News
    • Updates & Site News
      Check Out Our New Site Design!
  2. Lessons-in-Leadership
    • Leadership Coaching
      Leading Difficult Discussions
  3. New Tools, Resources & Ideas
    • Share Your Tips, Best Practices and Stories!
      Help & Be Helped
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    • Reader Feedback

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Lessons In Leadership

Leadership Coaching
Leading Difficult Discussions

"Things Don't turn up in this world until somebody turns them up."
- Garfield

Why do so many leaders struggle with addressing issues of employee performance or behavior?

It's been my experience as a leader that the most common challenge faced by people in management is the fear they have about initiating a difficult discussion with an employee.

One might assume that it would only be newer managers who are less confident in confronting tough personnel issues, but the fact is that many leaders at all levels share this common fear.

Surprisingly, many in high level positions were never properly taught how to initiate a difficult discussion in an effective manner. As a result, they either conduct these types of conversations badly - or not at all.

This realization has prompted me to write a series of articles on the topic of "How to lead a difficult discussion".

I will be sharing these articles in future editions of this newsletter. You can expect to receive newsletters more often than once per month during this time. Once the series is completed, we will package the articles into an easy reference guide for all subscribers.

I believe this new leadership tool, A Leader's Guide to Initiating Difficult Discussions, will eventually become one of the most important tools in our leadership library.

Being a good communicator is a critical leadership skill. Moreover, having the ability to communicate effectively with people is a LIFE skill that you cannot afford to do without.

This begs the question, "Why is it so difficult for so many leaders to initiate difficult discussions with an employee?" There are many reasons why difficult conversations are avoided, but mostly these reasons are all "fear-based".

Our basic human nature causes us to fear uncertainty, especially when there is the prospect of a confrontation. When we have not had the benefit of strong leadership development in leading difficult discussions, fear can cause you to avoid the situation altogether.

Common Fears That Cause Leaders To Avoid Difficult Discussions

  • Fear of how the employee will react. Not knowing if the employee will blame you or others. Will he quit; have hurt feelings; become argumentative or even violent?
  • Fear of not leading the conversation effectively. Uncertainly about what to say, how to say it, when and where to say it - can be very stressful for a manager who is not confident in her ability to communicate effectively.
  • Fear of damaging relationships. Even leaders like to be liked. There is inherent risk of being perceived as the bad guy by the employee, as well as other team members, when you hold people accountable.
  • Fear of perceptions by others. Every leader has a boss. When a leader does not possess a necessary skill, he or she feel may not want to call this to the attention of people higher up in the organization.

The good news is that you can develop the skills necessary to initiate difficult discussions with confidence and peace of mind. As a result, you'll become a more effective communicator and leader.

The risk of not initiating tough leadership discussions is far greater than you might think.

Risk of NOT Initiating Difficult Discussions

  • Poor behavior/performance continues or gets worse. With no feedback the offending employee will assume they aren't doing anything wrong causing the issue to persist and become more destructive to the team.
  • Sends the wrong message to other team members. When poor performers are not held accountable, it becomes a disincentive to strong performers who work very hard to set the proper example. This can lead to lower production and a higher risk of quality employees seeking to work in a more rewarding work environment.
  • Impact on customer service and retention. When employees are unhappy and not feeling supported by management, service quality can suffer, leading to lower customer retention.
  • Risk of losing your own job. Your team and your company expect you to lead the team effectively. When word spreads that you do not take action when necessary, it is only a matter of time before you will be viewed as a non-performer, putting your own career at risk.

If the idea of dealing with a difficult employee issue causes you anxiety then it’s time to GET EXCITED!

As scary as the prospect of having a difficult discussion may seem, the truth is that it's no different than any other skill you work to acquire. As in all instances of skill development, it's easy – once you know how!

There is absolutely no need for any leader to avoid having a difficult conversation with a team member. As the leader, your team expects you to effectively address important issues as they arise. After completing this series you'll be amazed at how simple the communication process can be.

A difficult discussion does not have to be a negative discussion. You can be supportive and firm at the same time.

By clearly articulating the issue(s), you'll be able to quickly assist employees with making better choices that will serve them well into the future. In addition to adding value to the employee, you'll better serve your team and the entire organization.

As you learn the proven process we will share in upcoming issues, you'll build the confidence and skill-set necessary for becoming a more effective communicator and respected leader.

For those of you who feel you have this "difficult discussion" thing down to a science – I encourage you to follow along anyway. You may be surprised by what you learn and I'll be asking you to contribute your ideas and tips along the way.

Don’t leave yet, we have some more exciting news below! See you there :)

"There never was a day that did not bring its own opportunity for doing good, that never could have been done before,
and never can be again."

- W.H. Burleigh

New Tools, Resources, Updates & Ideas

Share Your Tips, Best Practices and Stories!
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That’s all for now folks! I wish you all the happiest of holidays.

"The best men (and women) are not those who have waited for chances but who have taken them; besieged the chance; conquered the chance; and made chance the servitor."
- E.F. Chapin

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