Leadership In Action – Having that Tough Conversation

two woman siting on sofa inside room

Many of us put off having that tough conversation, as we visualize it not going well. The reality is that an effective way, to be fair but firm, provides clarity, accountability and the opportunity to correct one’s mistakes. The following five steps keep you focused and effective in providing vital feedback that needs to be heard.

1. Start with the Replacement Picture.
The replacement picture is the visualization of what success looks like. What is the desired behavior, the attitudes and habits that you want to see in your direct report? By starting with the replacement picture, you create a goal for them to move toward. The goal gives them the opportunity to make things right. And as critical as this conversation is, they understand they have not lost their job.

2. What is the Current Pattern of Behavior?
Based on your observations, describe the pattern of behavior that you have seen. Stay focused on the specific behavior(s) that are getting in the way. In your tone, you want to be factual but not accusatory. You are not asking them to defend the behavior, you’re asking them to change it.

3. What is the Impact of the Behavior?
How is the behavior impacting you and the team? This is an important part, as it provides specific context that your team member might not be aware of. They might think their behavior is not that bad. However, when you let them know that the impact it has on you is losing trust, that will create a stronger desire to correct the situation.

4. Reinforce the Replacement Picture.
Now that they understand the behavior and the impact, you want to bring them back to the desired behavior, the replacement picture. Having this clear picture to move toward, as well as the context for why the change needs to happen, creates clarity of expectations and accountability.

5. Commitment to Grow
This final step is critical. The primary goal of this conversation is growth in your team member. You need to close the conversation with a commitment from your team member to act. Ask for at least one specific action that they are going to stop or start, to ensure that they are moving toward the replacement picture. In addition, agree on a timeline to be back on track.

Following these five steps will Energize Action in your team member to correct their path and move toward the desired replacement picture. It’s a win-win-win: They grow, the team grows, and the example causes the organization to excel.