Navigating Tough Conversations: An Essential Trait of Great Leaders – Part 2

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When high Emotional Intelligence is required!

“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” – Aristotle, philosopher, scientist, teacher and writer.

In my original article Navigating Tough Conversations: An Essential Trait of Great Leaders, I stated that a leader cannot be effective unless they are willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations and that effectiveness requires highly developed Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

According to Daniel Goleman, in his article Emotional Intelligence Myth vs. Fact, he said of EQ, “It is the capacity to recognize our own feelings and those of others, to manage our emotions, and to interact effectively with others.” I believe high EQ provides the platform to muster the courage that is central to effectively navigate and more importantly to manage tough or uncomfortable conversations that will produce meaningful and successful outcomes.

In Bill George’s article Courage: The Defining Characteristic of Great Leaders, he said, “Courage is the quality that distinguishes great leaders from excellent managers.”

In Part 2 of Navigating Tough Conversations, I will discuss the steps in developing your EQ and to courageously deliver your message calmly and succinctly.

The Plan

Navigating a conversation that has the potential to be difficult requires a plan. A well conceived plan will reduce your anxiety and stress level. In a recent Tim Ferriss article, How to push past your biggest anxieties and act, he stated, “What we fear doing the most is usually what we most need to do.”

A few things in which to think:

  • What is the purpose for the conversation?
  • What kind of preparation will the conversation need?
  • When and where will you schedule the conversation?
  • Will you need assistance managing the conversation?
  • How will you effectively conclude the conversation?

The Steps

  1. Carefully collect, review and verify all the information available for the conversation, include all the relevant documents and facts.
  2. Notify the other party (employee) of the time for the conversation. Typically, the sooner you have the conversation the less stressful the planning, which in turn reduces your anxiety leading up to and during the actual conversation.
  3. Select a private location…not your office in case you need to end the conversation early.
  4. Compassionately state the purpose (goal) for the conversation, provide the employee with a brief opening comment, such as you are:
  5. giving developmental feedback.
  6. providing an annual performance review.
  7. disciplining the employee for negative behavior.
  8. terminating the employee’s employment.
  9. Carefully explain the feedback, or the decision(s) and/or action(s) you are taking and the reason(s).
  10. Provide employee the opportunity to respond.
  11. Be patient and listen attentively.
  12. If the conversation turns negative or there is push-back regarding your feedback or comments, be aware of your emotions. Remain calm and resist becoming defensive or angry.
  13. If necessary restate the purpose for the conversation and repeat your feedback, or the decision(s) and/or action(s) in a firm and direct voice. Do not escalate the conversation.
  14. Reflect carefully before you respond to any additional push-back or negative comments.
  15. If the employee pushes harder and becomes confrontational or you believe you are being blind-sided with negative comments that are extraneous to the purpose of the conversation, do not let yourself be drawn into any unrelated discussion(s). Assertively state you wish to remain on the conversation at hand.
  16. Try to perceive and understand your emotions and how your body is reacting to the push-back or negative confrontation. If you begin to feel flushed, hot or cold or your breathing speeds up recognize they are signs you need to slow things down. Do so by firmly re-stating your decision(s) and/or action(s) is final.
  17. In the case of disciplining the employee, you should explain corrective actions required; and in the case of terminating the employee, you should carefully explain the next steps in the process, including any rights of appeal available to the employee. If the employee has further questions or concerns regarding the rationale for the decision, you should direct them to any dispute resolution procedures your organization has.
  18. Continue to manage your emotions and do not waver or second guess your final decision(s) and/or action(s).
  19. Definitively end the conversation. Calmly thank the employee for their time and exit the room.

Questions: Do you agree with this process to manage tough conversations? Do you have any suggestion(s) on how to enhance navigating and managing tough conversations?

By |May 25th, 2017|Categories: Articles|0 Comments

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