4 Ways Coaching-Managers Lower Stress and Succeed with Tough Conversations

Discomfort often tips people toward new behaviors.


4 ways to succeed with tough conversations:

#1. Have them quickly. Delay makes matters worse.

Say-what-you-see as soon as possible. If you’re concerned that you could be off base, say so. ‘I might be off base, but here’s what I see.’

  1. People feel picked on, when you bring up past behaviors. ‘Three weeks ago you ….’
  2. Delay under the guise of not hurting someone’s feelings hurts you and your relationships.
  3. Stress goes up when you don’t say-what-you-see. Long-term stress seldom makes things better.

#2. Discuss impact versus intent.

Most team members want to do well for themselves and others. They don’t, for example, intend to demotivate others.

You might say, ‘I bet you don’t intend to demotivate your team, but when you (fill in a behavior), they feel devalued (impact). How might you energize, rather than demotivate your team?’

Believe positive intent. Explain negative impact.

#3. Explain how they aren’t serving themselves well.

I’ve been experiencing hearing loss in my left ear for a couple of years. My wife motivated me to take action when she gently said, “You look stupid when you don’t hear what’s going on.” 

Self-interest is a great motivator.

Tough conversations might begin with, ‘You’re not serving yourself well when, ….’

#4. Make room for personal concerns.

One manager, after discussing poor performance with an employee, asked a third party in the room if he could give him a minute with the employee.

When they were alone, he explained to the employee that he was surprised about the poor performance. “This should have been easy for you.” He asked if something was going on.

He took time to listen to personal concerns without inviting excuses. The result was relief and renewed energy. 

What are the key factors that make tough conversations successful?