Having difficult conversations with team members is arguably the most stressful thing you can do as a leader. Conversations like these are never easy to start, the recipient is sometimes caught off guard, and anytime someone becomes defensive, they are not receptive to hearing what you have to say.

There are many things you can do as a leader in anticipation of having difficult conversations. The more groundwork you lay and preparation you do before being in this type of situation, the better. However, what can you do as a leader to ensure that things go well after a difficult conversation is complete?

Before we dive into how to make difficult conversations a success, let’s cover how you may have gotten here in the first place. Often times, difficult conversations are a result of team complaints or certain behaviors that you may notice in a team member. After hearing or noticing this behavior, you might say the words, “I’ll have a talk with them” or “I’ll take care of it”. Keep in mind that your demeanor during this information exchange is important. Avoid saying anything that may be detrimental to any of your team members. This isn’t the time to speak negatively about anyone or inject personal opinion or drama. Regardless of what you’re feeling personally, communicating this type of information will undermine any respect you have as a leader.

Be A Coach

When having a difficult conversation, be open and honest. Let the team member know exactly what’s going on, what they’re doing, and what happens as a result of their behavior. Have an open conversation about whatever the issue may be and give the team member an opportunity to interject. Before wrapping up the conversation, check in to be sure everyone’s on the same page and then give them guidance. They may not be aware of what they’re doing and more importantly, they probably don’t know what to do in its place. Coach your team member. Give them new tools to use to not only recognize the behavior or action, but coach them on how to use their new tools. Understand that it may take time for them to make adjustments. Include ongoing feedback in your weekly touch base sessions with this team member so they can get the help they need.

Being a leader means that you are also an educator and a coach. Leadership training or business coaching services may be something to turn to so you can practice giving this type of feedback. Do everything you can as a leader to set your team up for success by seeing things through long after a difficult conversation has taken place.