Whether you need to ask for a raise, break some bad news, or ask the person a few desks over to stop chewing so loudly, we are all faced with conversations that we would rather avoid—especially in the workplace, and especially as a leader.
What I want leaders to understand is that candor can be delivered without being mean. In today’s world, there is a level of fear that keeps people from being authentic. Leaders have got to lead with love and clearly understand that we all have a different perspective.
By saying what you believe with grace, it allows others to believe in your authenticity even if they don’t agree with you. Surprisingly, I think people are looking for authenticity today more than they are looking for someone who believes exactly what they do.
Here are some tips for having tricky discussions:
1. If You Have Something to Say, Say it Sooner, Rather Than Later
Remember: It’s better to talk to someone than about someone. The sooner you have the conversation, the closer you are to finding a solution rather than allowing the issue to build up in your mind. Being candid is also about being timely—the more you delay the conversation, the more awkward it becomes.
2. Plan, But Don’t Script
Write down a few key bullet points beforehand. This will help you be more direct. Your goal is to put the matter to bed as quickly as possible. You don’t want to have to revisit this issue time and time again, so make sure that you say everything you need to say the first time. However, if you plan a detailed script of the conversation in your head, more often than not, things will not go the way you planned. Unless you are a psychic and know how the other party will respond, just focus on setting your objectives for the conversation ahead of time.Remember: It’s better to talk to someone than about someone. Click To Tweet
3. Stay on Message
Staying on point is the most important thing you can do in any conversation that you need to steer to a particular outcome. If you end up in the weeds discussing the finer points of politics or sports, you may have already missed your chance or made your point less effective.
4. Slow Down and Listen
Communication is a two-way street. After you’ve said what you needed to say, take some time to listen. Active listening is so important, yet so challenging. Before an important conversation, I always write the word “listen” on my palm to serve as a reminder.
Also, pay attention to your body language and make sure that you are signaling that you are open and interested. Avoid crossing your arms or leaning back in your chair. Ultimately, you want to communicate that you are receptive to all comments and opinions.
5. End by Saying, “Thank You”
Thank your teammates for listening and being open to what you have to say—this will work to build trust. Afterward, keep what happened in the conversation to yourself. No matter the outcome, move forward and focus only on the future.