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As a leader, having difficult conversations is an inevitable part of the job. How you prepare for the discussions will directly impact their effectiveness. Before you conduct the conversation, you must assess whether it is a content, pattern, or relationship problem. I call it giving the conversation “CPR”.

Here is what I mean:

Content: Is the problem related to quality of work that the person does?

Pattern: Is the problem related to an issue that continues to happen?

Relationship: Is the problem related to way they behave with peers and/or customers?

Once you determine if the problem is a content, pattern, or relationship issue, you can focus on the steps that will help you execute the difficult conversation with confidence.

These four steps are:

1. Think it through: Ask yourself if your short or long term success rely on addressing this problem. If the answer to that is “no”, maybe you shouldn’t be having the conversation.

2. Prepare: Assess the facts and your own assumptions. Address all the emotions. Think about what your emotions are and what their emotions are. Think about the possible outcomes.

3. Conduct the conversation: Make sure that you acknowledge the issue, ask questions, and listen.

4. Follow through: Do a self-evaluation. How did you do? What could you have done better? Make sure you follow up in writing to assure both of you understand what was talked about and you both keep your commitments.

By mastering difficult conversations, you will take your leadership skills to the next level.

If you would like to take a deeper dive into this topic, join us for an upcoming event: How to Coach Your People to Master Difficult Conversations.

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