Success includes not shooting yourself in the foot.
12 Don’ts of Tough Conversations:
- Don’t use “we” when you mean “you”.
- Never allow fuzzy language. Exercise candor and precision when fuzzy feels safe.
- Don’t press through when emotion is high. Emotional stress limits creative solution-finding. Self-justification is inevitable.
- Don’t drag things out. Take a break for emotions to cool (#3 above.), but don’t wait till next week. Urgency is appropriate if it’s an important issue. Why all the emotion if things can drag out for a month or two? Emotional stress may indicate that things have dragged on too long.
- Never have the same conversation three times. Unacceptable behavior becomes acceptable when allowed to persist. Impose higher controls and granular accountability if problems persist.
- Forget about offering options when you aren’t willing to discuss them. If you’re going to give direction, do it.
- Don’t adopt an adversarial posture. Help teammates get what they want. You lose when you try to win a tough conversation.
- Don’t take responsibility to fix someone. No one enjoys being fixed. People grow. They don’t need fixed.
- Don’t expect someone to excel where they lack aspiration, talent or strength. If this is dragging on for months, adjust their responsibilities, reassign them, or manage them out.
- Never offer suggestions before others design their own. Don’t solve problems for people. “What would you like to do about this?” Develop three or four possible solutions and choose one.
- Don’t keep controlling. Give freedom as you see progress. The rule of thumb is controls go up as problems persist and down as progress is achieved.
- Don’t speak down. Poor leadership skills contribute to nagging issues. Maybe procrastinating – on your part – has made the situation worse. If you think you have it all together, you don’t.
What should leaders avoid during tough conversations?