Leading a team means you sometimes need to have difficult conversations with your employees. It’s never easy to talk about issues like poor performance or behavior problems. Some leaders delay having these discussions. Others don’t have them at all, hoping the problem resolves itself.

That’s seldom the case, though. Postponing difficult discussions can make the situation worse, which can lead to decreased morale, lower productivity and resentment.

Terri Klass, an executive and leadership coach, sees leaders avoiding challenging conversations all the time. When they do, they’re not really honoring their leadership. Anyone who leads a team should be willing to share their feedback. The key, she says, is learning how to stick the landing with these difficult conversations. We share Klass’ pointers on how to do this in this issue of PromoPro Daily.

Get in the right frame of mind. If your heart is pounding or you’re wringing your hands, take a minute to breathe. Klass says it’s crucial for leaders to take a clear and calm mindset before entering into a difficult discussion.

Prepare well. Klass recommends writing out what needs to be said. If you just wing it in the discussion, you might miss some points and the other person leaves feeling confused. Ask yourself about the purpose of the conversation and what points you need to convey. You should also know the desired outcome of the conversation.

Always be respectful. No matter how truthful a leader is or how critical the information, the difficult discussion will not be heard if there is no respect for the other person, Klass says. There are two sides to every story. Listen to what your staff member has to say. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but you’re allowing them space to share their perspective.

Watch your words and body language. Avoid using words like never or always, as these aren’t helpful, Klass says. You should also use good eye contact so the other person feels seen. Another tip? Sit next to the person and not across the table. This can create a more balanced rapport.

Focus on the issues, not the person. According to Klass, it’s a common mistake for leaders to attack the person rather than the issue. Instead of calling someone unprofessional, state the actions that aren’t professional. Maybe they show up to work late or arrive unprepared for meetings. Be specific by giving examples.

It’s never wise to put off difficult conversations. Instead, take time to prepare and always focus on the issues rather than the person. When you handle the discussion with empathy and respect, you can improve communication and foster trust, which can ultimately lead to positive outcomes for everyone involved.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Terri Klass, CPCC, MBA is an executive and leadership coach, facilitator, trainer and speaker.