Training For Difficult Management Conversations
For the first time, I'm sharing the exercise I've used to coach over 100 managers to have difficult performance management conversations.
In my recent book, Elevate Your Team, as well as in one of my recent articles, I shared an overview of an exercise for having difficult conversations that I created for our advanced leadership training at Acceleration Partners.
As I’ve shared this in writing and on podcasts over the years, people have often reached out asking for more detail to replicate the exercise with their own team(s). As part of the Leadership Minute, I wanted to share that information publicly for the first time—including the most valuable prompt from the exercise.
Why practice difficult conversations?
From time to time, every manager must give direct feedback that their employees really don’t want to hear, and often are unprepared to receive. I know many seasoned leaders who absolutely agonize over these types of performance evaluation conversations and struggle to deliver the right message. This is why we want our new managers to be as prepared as possible to have these talks.
Plus, these are conversations that are crucial to get right. For example, a manager who delivers tough feedback to struggling employee must strike a delicate balance between being respectful and tactful while also making it crystal clear to the employee that they are on thin ice and need to step it up. In my experience, many managers try to soften the blow to the point that they don’t make the message clear. At the end of the discussion, the employee and the manager aren’t on the same page, which sets both parties on a collision course for a poor future outcome.
To illustrate the problems a mishandled feedback conversation can have, I’ll draw from something I’ve seen in the difficult conversations exercise every time we’ve done it.
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