You cannot afford to be in anything less than your most resourceful state in difficult conversations with the people who work for you and with you. If you are in a foul mood, upset, or impatient, you can’t produce a positive outcome. Your attitude subtracts from your ability to achieve the outcome you need.
If you are upset with someone’s performance or something they have or haven’t done, the time to speak with them isn’t while you are angry. Even without meaning to, your focus can easily shift from the outcome you need to the person. And when the person you are speaking to feels like they are being attacked personally, they become defensive. Worse still, you aren’t motivating better performance; you are demotivating the person. Instead of helping them produce better results you cause them to focus on the negative nature of your interaction.
If you want to be effective in dealing with people and working through difficult conversations, you have to separate the outcome you need from your desire to give the person sitting in front of you a piece of your mind, teach them a lesson, light a fire underneath them, or whatever metaphor suits you.
Here’s how to get back in state.
- Pause: Covey said all there is to say here. You have a choice to make in the gap between the stimulus and your response. That gap is where your power resides. Blowing over the gap disempowers you and eliminates choices. Take time to cool down before you engage in a difficult conversation.
- Determine Your Outcome: You may believe that it will give you great pleasure to read someone the riot act, but that probably isn’t the outcome you really need. It’s more likely that the outcome you need is a different result. The results probably require that the person you lead needs a changed belief and a changed behavior. What do you want to be the outcome of the conversation?
- How You Can Help: What are you going to do to help the person you are speaking with to do better in the future? What do they need to do? Can you be there to provide feedback? Can you encourage them? Can you provide additional resources? Remember, you have a responsibility to the relationship.
- Plan the Dialogue: When a conversation is important (actually, any time you are having a difficult conversation with someone you lead), invest ten minutes in writing down your outcome, writing down your talking points, and writing your plan to help the person succeed. A good plan can help ensure you get the real outcome you need.
People are going to remember how you make them feel. Be sure you deliver the message in a way that adds to your relationship and ensures the person with whom you are unhappy can produce the outcome you need. That means having the conversation when you are best prepared to get those outcomes, not when you are in an unresourceful state.