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Do you have difficult conversations and want to avoid them?

Course Overview

This classroom based, interactive course teaches managers how to facilitate coaching conversations that make employees receptive to any type of feedback and take ownership in acting on what was discussed. It eliminates communication breakdowns, delays in having important discussions, difficult conversations on raises, and assumptions.

Having Difficult Conversations That Improve Performance

Key Concepts

Simplifies all the elements of performance coaching down to “shaping performance to get employees to consistently meet performance expectations with minimal supervision.”

Teaches a way to conduct coaching conversations where managers come off “hard on results and soft on people” Makes the outcomes of coaching simple and tangible.

Provides attendees with hands on practice responding to the attitudes, excuses and “stinking thinking” that so many employees use to avoid coming to grips with their performance

Participants break into teams and practice role playing with difficult topics and learn simple techniques they can apply when they go back to work that will give them the confidence to have these difficult discussions that often times have been avoided.

Participants will learn how to:

•  Analyze and plan a difficult conversation
•  Have a conversation without defensiveness from the beginning
•  Listen carefully to what is said, understand it, and the meaning of what is not said
•  Stay under control in the face of attacks and accusations
•  Use productive problem solving instead of emotion to get results

Course Outline

Module One: What is a Difficult Conversation?

  • Face the problem

  • Why should I act now?

  • The consequence of not having that uncomfortable conversation is costly.

  • How can I make the conversations more bearable?

  • The consequence of not having that uncomfortable conversation is costly.

  • The more you get into the habit of facing these issues squarely, the more adept you will become at it.

  • We believe that we know what is really happening and what needs to happen.

  • Prime mistake – I am right and you are wrong, so you should do what I say.

Module Two: Planning a Difficult Conversation

  • What is your purpose for having the conversation?

  • With whom?

  • When?

  • How?

  • What do you hope to accomplish?

  • What would be the best outcome? For whom?

  • The best way to start is with a direct approach.

  • To improve these conversations, we need to change our assumptions and our behavior.

  • We need to assume that we don’t know the whole truth and that our counterpart can give us significant information.

  • Our goal becomes to help her understand why we think what we think, to explain our reasoning without falling into advocacy.

  • Once we understand each other, we can negotiate our differences and look for win-win solutions.

  • Mutual trust and respect are at the core of every productive conversation.

  • Module 3: Utilizing Your Key Conversation Tools

    • Active listening and questioning techniques.

    • Words.

    • Tone of voice.

    • Facial expressions and body language.

    • Skilled communicators use non-verbal behavior to back up and enhance what they are saying.

    • Active listening strengthens your relationship with the employee by demonstrating that you think they have something worthwhile to say.

    • Facial expressions can be the hardest to control and often betray our real emotions.

    • Dos and Don’ts of effective listening.

    • Open questions.

    • Closed questions.

    • Probing/reflective questions.

    Module Four: Planning The Meeting In Advance

    • Check your policies and procedures.

    • Develop a pre-prepared script to help you stay focused and in control.

    • Be clear about the issue.

    • What do you want to accomplish with the conversation?

    • Be open to hear first what the other person has to say before reaching closure.

    • Seek a greater truth in any situation.

    • Choose the Right Place to Have the Conversation.

    • What assumptions are you making about this person’s intentions?

    • Are you more emotional than the situation warrants?

    • Who is the opponent? What might he be thinking about this situation? Is he aware of the problem? If so, how do you think he perceives it? What are his needs and fears? What solution do you think he would suggest?

    • What are your needs and fears?

    • How have you contributed to the problem? How has the other person?

    • Mentally practice the conversation. See various possibilities and visualize yourself handling them with ease. Envision the outcome you are hoping for.

    Module 5: Having The Conversation

    • At the start of the discussion it is usually best to ask open questions.

    • Some safe questions you can start with.

    • Ensure that your objective is fair and that you are using a consistent approach. Aim for consistency in your leadership approach.

    • You might then follow up with probing questions, with information verified using closed questions where necessary.

    • Staying in control.

    • Be prepared to negotiate.

    • Introduction – set the right tone.

    • Focus on the issue and not the person.

    • State what the issues are and give evidence.

    • Explain the impact the problem is having.

    • Ask for an explanation – Listen to what they have to say.

    • Acknowledge their position.

    • Introduce your questions and explore the issues together.

    • Use your questioning techniques to avoid diversions.

    • Be comfortable with silence.

    • Limit any collateral damage to a relationship.

    • Manage conflict effectively – stonewalling, sarcasm and accusing.

    Module Six: Handling Emotion

    • Power of Emotions

    • How do we make decisions and what influences our decision making process?

    • Your decision making process relies on emotions and the way you feel about something?

    • Each generation is different.

    • It is your responsibility as a leader to understand and manage the emotions in the discussion.

    • Emotions follow a path.

    • How can you address self-talk and improve your self-awareness to better understand the world around you?

    • Be mindful of preserving the person’s dignity and treating them with respect even if you totally disagree with them.

    • How to stop negative and destructive self-talk.

    • How can you manipulate the way you think and feel to change the way you act?

    • How using the appropriate tone can help calm a difficult situation. How to prepare to deliver potentially bad news.

    • How should you start when you want to talk about bad news?

    • How to use the 7-Steps technique to deliver bad news.

    • What kinds of reactions can you expect to receive when delivering bad news?

    • How to handle people’s reactions to what you say when they become highly emotional or upset.

    • Don’t take verbal attacks personally.

    • Don’t make assumptions about our counterpart’s intentions.

    Module Seven: Agree On A Solution

    • Ask the employee for proposals to resolve the situation.

    • Discuss the options.

    • Ask your opponent/partner what he thinks might work. Whatever he says, find something you like and build on it.

    • Asking for the other person’s point of view usually creates safety and encourages him to engage.

    • MAKE A DECISION Remember, you are in charge!

    • Document any agreement and give a copy to the employee.

    • Arrange a follow up meeting.

    • Monitor and feedback on progress and continue to provide support where agreed.

    Module Nine: Activities

    Module Eight: Train Other Leaders On How To Handle A Difficult Situation

    For class sign up or more information feel free to either call us @ 1-800-835-6839 , fill in the contact fields below, or email directly at


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