Key Steps for a Difficult Conversation

key steps for a difficult conversation

Do you find yourself avoiding those difficult conversations? Do you have someone you need to talk to about his/her negative results or behavior, but you are procrastinating and/or stressing about it? 

Be assured that you can do difficult conversations well with these 7 key steps.

Art Barter, CEO of Datron Communications and SLI, shared in today’s webinar the steps that he follows to ensure a 100% success rate with difficult discussions. These steps enable him to positively move a person towards doing great work and, most important, to build rapport and trust.

Key Steps for a difficult conversation:

  1. CLARIFY the relationship that you wish to have –describe what it looks like, how do you want this person to perform – think this through before you meet.
    2.    DISCUSS the company mission, values, and the priorities within these. Make sure they understand what is not up for discussion.
    3.    LISTEN to what other person has to say – maybe you don’t have the whole story, find out their perspective. Listen to understand.
    4.    GIVE clear examples of the behavior desired
    5.    EXPLAIN the consequences – be clear on what will happen if they do not change. If you invest your time ongoing with this person, these conversations should be limited.
    6.    TALK about the time-frame for improvement – discuss how they will be accountable and check in regularly, see how it is going. Behaviors take time to change and incremental steps are important.

    7.    TALK about the positive contributions the person has made to the organizations – For example: outline why you hired them, what you believe they can do, highlight the good work they have done, discuss when the relationship was at a high.

Highlights that will set you apart:
•    A mindset and attitude of love
•    Clarifying the relationship you would like to have
•    Discussing company mission, vision and values
•    Talking about their positive contribution

Do you ever go down a level?

I asked Art if he ever conducts these types of conversations with people who are a level below him. He replied, “Yes, it is my responsibility as a leader to support the mission and values of the company. But, first I discuss with HR the situation and get their insight and coaching. Next I bring in their manager to discuss so that everyone knows what I am doing. Also, if someone is going up a level to talk with me, I ask them first, “Does your boss know you are here?” If the answer is no, I ask that they respect their supervisor and go tell him/her what they are doing first. Since this person will need to take this step first it also helps to avoid the venting situations.”

Art closed up the webinar with this statement,
“You need to be courageous to have these conversations. It is positive servant leadership to do so. Pour love into people who work with you, it is well worth the journey and you will be amazed with the rewards. Take the steps to have those difficult conversations, the earlier on the better.”

You can listen to the webinar recording at

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