Knowing How to Have Critical Conversations is a missing leadership skill in far too many managers I come across in my work.
Have you had a bad manager before in your career?
If you’re like me, you have.
My bad manager wasn’t the tyrant, authoritarian type leader though.
Mine was totally ineffective because she avoided Critical Conversations… or if she had to have them, would say whatever she thought we wanted to hear so the conversation would end.
This killed my motivation and achievement drive.
I wasn’t engaged, I wasn’t productive and I wasn’t giving my best.
Needless to say, I didn’t last much longer in that job.
If all managers improved this leadership skill there will be far less unmanaged conflict and higher levels of engagement and performance.
Well, I’m on a mission to fill the world with great managers!
So here’s how you can be better at this challenging part of your role.
How to Have Critical Conversations, Skillfully
Be Clear on Your Intention
Your Intention is your backstory if you like. It is often unconscious.
Is your intention to be helpful? Or to humiliate them?
If you are not clear on this, it will be clear to the other person in your body language.
Be Clear on the Outcome
You need to Be Clear on the Outcome you want from the conversation.
What is the result required?
What would success look like?
What would the other person be doing differently, behaviourally, after the conversation?
Too many managers use vague outcomes like – they’ll have a better attitude, be more proactive, more focused etc… These do not work!
Send a Clear Message
Sending a Clear Message is so important!
Many new organisations I visit, talk about the communication problems they have – everyone thinks these problems belong to someone else!
Sending a Clear Message is about:
- The words you say
- your tone of voice and,
- most importantly, your body language.
Many people can be totally unaware of their facial expressions, their posture and all the messaging that comes from what they’re not saying.
Whatever you are thinking will come out in your body language. It will leak out of you!
Become a Power listener
This means being patient (not cutting people off) and demonstrating your understanding.
This is the best way to prevent misunderstandings and mistakes.
Hearing and Listening are not the same things.
Very few people listen well.
You need to really practice power listening to a level of mastery.
Use an Effective Opener
The Opener for your conversation has to happen just before the conversation begins when emotions are at their peak.
When emotions are running high the brain doesn’t work well – we get tongue-tied and say the first thing that comes into our mouth. Sound familiar?
If you do not open the conversation effectively, allowing the other person to clearly classify/understand what the conversation is about, you will be in damage control from the moment you open your mouth.
Some people fluff and candy coat the issue.
Others use a sledgehammer approach.
If you don’t start the conversation clearly and well, I guarantee it won’t end well.
Ask Effective Questions
When emotions are running high, people tend to ask closed questions and wonder why they’re not getting anywhere.
They usually think the other person is being difficult.
The quality of the question you ask determines the quality of the information you get.
Solution-Focused Questions get the other person’s brain working.
Discuss Options + Agree on Actions
Make sure this is a 2-way conversation – not a command and control session.
Often managers do a lot of Telling rather than conversing.
Here’s a tip: If your employees behave like children, you might be behaving like a parent.
Conversations need to be 2-way Adult to Adult.
Give feedback about what’s going well and any adjustments required.
Knowing how to have Critical Conversations could be the one thing holding you back from being a Great Manager.
In our Great Managers Academy, you learn the 7 Strategies that great managers use to get results.
How to Have Critical Conversations is just one of these Strategies you’ll learn in detail.
To find out more about this industry-leading leadership program, click here.