Conversations You Hate Having

As a leader or manager, what conversations do you most dislike having with those you manage? For a lot of leaders, a performance adjustment conversation sits near the top of that list.

Feedback conversations made easier

This is that discussion that becomes necessary when performance either is not up to where it needs to be, or requires the individual to start, stop, or change what he or she is doing in order to achieve the expected result.

But performance adjustment conversations can be easier than we think. Do you have a direct report you need to have such a talk with? These 4 steps can help. 

An Inspiring Example

A few months back one of my client’s direct reports – I’ll call her Ariel – had taken over a team and was now leading that group in a high-visibility project. But like many who are new to management, and even some who aren’t, this new leader was holding onto work that should have been given away to those on her team.

My client didn’t wait until the situation got worse. He didn’t sit back and watch Ariel either burn out or fail. He didn’t write this new manager off as inept or as someone he shouldn’t have promoted into this tough new role.

Instead, he had a talk with her to find out what was getting in the way.

And over the next couple of months, he guided Ariel in seeing how she could let go and still get the results her team was capable of delivering.

Feedback in 4 Steps

Starting the conversation in a relaxed, non-judgmental way with a simple statement of what you’ve observed sets the tone for solution. You can follow that with an acknowledgement of what has been done well, then candidly outline what you’d like to see change and involve the other in the conversation with a question.

  1. State Your Observation: “I’ve noticed lately that you’ve been doing a lot of work that I assumed you’d be giving away to others.”
  2. Acknowledge What’s Working: “You’re an outstanding performer whom I can always count on.”
  3. Be Candid: “I’m concerned, though, that you could burn out quickly or won’t have enough quality time to devote to the big-picture aspects of the projects you’re responsible and could then fall short of expectations.”
  4. Involve: “Tell me what’s stopping you from giving some key work to others?”

You’ve now opened the door to finding out what’s going on and then helping your direct report to come up with a plan.

6 Types of Conversations

There are a variety of conversations managers have with their directs, and among them six main types emerge. All of them are important. You’ll likely put all six into play with those you are leading. Knowing which type of conversation you’re having can help keep the discussion on track for both you and your direct report — and it can help you start the conversation to begin with.

In addition to the Performance Adjustment Conversation, the other 5 types are: Career Development Conversation, Behavioral Change Conversation, Delegation Conversation, Progress Update Conversation, and Accountability Conversation. In future posts I’ll discuss ways to approach each of these.

Question: How do you approach feedback with your team? Or how do you react when you request feedback from your manager and don’t get it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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