A great column in last week’s BusinessWeek by Carmine Gallo gives the reader 4 steps to making difficult conversations with employees and coworkers more productive. I like his steps, but I have four of my own, and I’ll let you choose which works for you. Read Carmine’s suggestions here.
Here are my four steps:
Step 1. Always start with a question. I rarely feel that I know the complete story so I typically ask for more information about the issue or behavior in question. Nine times out of ten I learn something I didn’t know that helps the conversation. Asking questions and clarifying information usually gets both parties a little more comfortable.
Step 2. Express your concern about the issue or behavior and let the employee know why you’re concerned. More information helps the employee see how their work interacts with someone else’s or contributes to the organization as a whole.
Step 3. Ask for the employee’s input in solving the issue or behavior. There may be several solutions that would work, and choosing the best one together, or letting the employee choose one is a win/win.
Step 4. Restate the action plan for the resolution and close the meeting with an invitation for either of you to meet again if the issue needs revisiting.
It may be hard to talk to employees and coworkers about issues or behaviors, but if you are in a leadership position, you must learn how to have hard conversations of all types. The secret is asking questions and collaborating on solutions.