Tough conversations are a part of any high functioning work team. Without doubt, the absence of robust feedback conversations is typically a clear indicator of a dysfunctional or under-performing team.
So we have to have ‘em. But how do we have them and make sure we’re productive rather than destructive? Great question. So good you’d think I’d asked it myself...
The short answer is robust feedback conversations should follow patterns of mutual understanding and process. Put another way, make sure everyone knows the rules of conduct.
Follow the three C’s
A useful framework I encourage clients to adopt is the ‘3 C’s’; Context, Content, Commitment.
You’ve got a choice. Either you set the frames or the alternative is the frames are set for you. Typically the best place to start with framing is to answer three questions.
Out of all the things we could be discussing, why is this important?
In a busy world. Why should this become high priority? Why the urgency?
Seems redundant, but never really is. Why are you conducting this conversation and not someone else?
There are many other framing techniques and applications, but the three why’s should cover 99% of the conversations you’re likely to have.
There are 4 big rules to observe when prepping your content.
1. The past is not as relevant as the future. Possibly the biggest mistake I see is when the conversation is a blame-game. All focused on the past. Note to self; you can’t change the past, but you can re-shape the future.
2. Do the prep work. If you rock up and shoot from the hip...well, sorry; but that’s disrespectful. Don’t do it.
3. Focus on one thing. There’s gotta be one thing you need that will bring success. Do that thing, not the seventeen other things you’d like.
4. Never ambush. Y’know, someone turns up, and you’ve got reams of evidence you’ve been squirreling away for the right moment. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t show good management, that just shows someone who was too weak to have the conversation when it needed to be had.
Possibly the one most get wrong. Doh!
Yet, it’s so simple to get right! Just finish the conversation with the following two questions.
‘Can you tell me what you think you need to do from here?’
‘Can you tell me what you think I need to do from here?’
See how simple, yet how important they are? We get to clear expectations before we leave the room and set a psychological contract with each other around next steps.
So there they are. The three C’s. I guarantee they’ll make your next tough conversations a whole lot better. Use them well.