People can be difficult. Situations can be difficult. Relationships can be difficult. You can be difficult.
While “difficult” is not typically on anyone’s to-do list for any given day, difficult conversations are likely to occur when we are leading, and aren’t we all leading in the way we think, act, speak and respond to others?
So, as you are leading yourself, and sometimes others, through difficulty, there are ways to ease into the flow while maintaining empathy, professionalism and consideration for the outcome(s).
If you are wondering how to do that, there are many ways, including this approach:
Check in with yourself first to see if this difficulty is real or imagined, a result of something you did, or did not do or say, and if that is where the challenge is, you can address it with actions and, potentially, a sincere apology with anyone impacted.
If after checking in with yourself, you realize the problematic situation is stemming from someone, something or somewhere else, please approach this analytically with reason in mind, not sorting out people’s reasons in your own mind.
When the timing, occurrence, people and/or more are determined, ensure you are going to address the parties for solutions and moving forward over complaining, proving points and blaming.
When you are ready, schedule time with the person, or people, involved with a clear subject and agenda. By setting time aside, you are being respectful of their schedule and allowing for preparation. The subject lets them know what to investigate and having an agenda something like, “What went well, what to improve, gaps to goal and next steps” show that the start will be positive. The heart of the meeting is about facing what occurred but will end on a productive note of forward movement..
While in this process, using and meaning words such as “You may be right” and “Please tell me more” will allow you to hear, and see, their side of the story as you broaden your perspective. As information gets revealed you can encourage with, “Since we are here to improve and move forward and not to bemoan or belabor the past, let’s please go ahead and be as transparent as possible of all sides,” and “Please know I am not asking to judge, rather to learn, as we can all learn from this.”
Once you have information gathered, sufficiently, you can move the approach to not having/making the same oversight/mistake/error twice by reinforcing processes that serve your company, clients and customers well. This provides the reason for the standards and support of the ask moving forward.
Then ask what can be expected moving ahead—including what they expect of you and what is fair to expect of them. With this in the closing you can, and will, learn of roadblocks and challenges and know whether you are in a good position to support and assist.
The positive approach is not about avoiding the topic, or experience, rather it is about addressing what has happened and how to move from difficulty and discomfort to agreement for the future, without disagreement or accusations as you are easing into building your rapport and relationship all the while.
Debbie Lundberg is the founder and CEO of the Florida-based firm Presenting Powerfully. An 11-time published author, certified virtual presenter, certified life coach, certified leadership coach and certified image consultant, she is a performance coach who co-hosts the Business of Life Master Class podcast. Her latest book, Remote Work Rockstar, has become a guide for working and leading virtually.