Bob walks into your office. His face is red, and his posture is rigid. You invite him to take a seat, finishing up a phone call while your mind races ahead. Is this about the fact that he didn’t get the promotion? Or is he having issues, again, with Sue on the new project? Dread fills your gut.
Challenging conversations and resolving conflict as a leader is no walk in the park. But there are ways to make these inevitable stressors less painful, strengthening your leadership skills at the same time.
How to Lead Challenging Conversations
One of the most important steps in preparing for a challenging conversation is to be prepared. Working from a place of calmness and strength is essential. Take time to reflect on your “why”, to meditate, or to exercise. All will help you during the tricky moments that lie ahead.
Here are some other ways in which to lead a challenging conversation in the workplace.
- Be Active You’ve likely heard of the practice of active listening. Counselors use it to make sure that they understand what their clients are telling them. Successful therapists repeat back—in their own words—what they believed they heard.
- Get the Facts If at all possible get the information you need from all parties involved before a meeting. If an employee seeks you out spur-of-the-moment, try to schedule a time soon to meet, leaving yourself time to better prepare.
- Reflect Spend a little time digging into your feelings before you get involved in the conversation. If Bob’s complaining—yet again—about the unfair treatment he receives brings up those old sibling issues from your past, processing your own emotions first is essential. A trusted mentor, coach, or counselor can help if you need extra support.
- Problem-Solve Problem–solving is perhaps the best part of the situation. It allows you and the individual or group to work together as a team to come up with solutions. It’s usually ineffective, however, if the first steps aren’t taken first.
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein, physicist
Resolving Conflict: An Ongoing Process
Most conflict isn’t a “one-and-done” type situation. Rather, it often takes many steps, meetings, and new methods to resolve. Difficult conversations and conflict resolution are some of the most dreaded and challenging tasks for leaders to manage. If you’re struggling in these areas, you’re certainly in good company.
However, just as communicating your compelling vision as a leader is essential, so too, are learning the skills in this area. Purposeful leadership—the challenges and the benefits—are well worth the effort involved. Strengthening yourself and your skills in all these two areas will make you a more well-rounded, high-performing leader.
Do you avoid challenging conversations? Is mediating conflict in the workplace something you dread? If so, get in touch with Anthony today for 1:1 leadership coaching support. While much can be learned through books, courses, and online resources, nothing replaces partnering with someone who has been in the trenches and can answer your specific questions.