I recently worked with a woman who had been promoted from a manager to a director.
When you get promoted, you’re suddenly responsible for people. When they’re doing well, you celebrate. When they’re not doing well, you have to figure out what to say to encourage them to get better.
What you say can make or break them.
So there we were, this new Director and I. Her goal was to give performance feedback to one of her direct reports. To essentially tell this person, “you’re not doing well, here’s what you need to work on.”
She started the conversation with about 5 questions: How are you? How’s work? Wasn’t your mom sick? How is she doing? What are you working on?
Now we’re 15 minutes into a 30 minute meeting and she hasn’t even broached the subject of the meeting.
Asking questions is great when you WANT TO KNOW THE ANSWER.
I asked her what’s going on? Why are you nowhere near the topic of this meeting?
And she said she just can’t figure out how to broach the topic with her direct report.
Her direct report was probably wondering the same thing. She’s thinking, “Why has my manager called me in here to chit chat?” She’s waiting for the other shoe to drop, to find out whats wrong.
You can be clear and be kind.
You can be clear and likable. In fact, when you’re clear, people feel taken care of rather than confused.
What she could say instead of asking questions
Here are a few examples to think about for your own tough conversations.
If you’re the boss
CLEARLY STATE WHY SHE’S HERE: “I asked you to come in today to talk about the number of days you’ve been telecommuting.”
CLEARLY STATE THE SITUATION without anything personal or any judgements: “You’re over the allowed time…” AND FOCUS ON THE FUTURE, “and are in danger of being reclassified as a remote worker.”
If you’re talking to your boss
CLEARLY STATE WHY SHE’S HERE: “I asked to meet with you today because I’d like to talk about the Smith project.”
CLEARLY STATE THE SITUATION without anything personal or any judgements: “I got some negative feedback about the end result from the client…” AND FOCUS ON THE FUTURE, “and want to discuss what happened and how I can improve.”
CLEARLY STATE WHY SHE’S HERE: “I’d like to talk about my career opportunities here.”
CLEARLY STATE THE SITUATION without anything personal or any judgements: “I’d like to be sure you know what I am interested in doing next…” AND FOCUS ON THE FUTURE, “so that I can continue to produce outstanding results and advance my career.”
Try taking the fluff out of your tough conversations. Say it clear and say it kind. Your kindness will come through when you mean it.
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