Handling Difficult Conversations – A Leadership Essential

Handling Difficult Conversations – A Leadership Essential“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ― George Bernard Shaw

Recently I conducted training on Performance Dialogues for the leadership team of a world-renowned pharmaceutical company. As good communication is a critical contributor to performance, one of key areas that we focus on in this leadership training for middle and senior managers is on the skills of Handling Difficult Conversations.

The theme for one of the role-plays was a manager giving feedback to a team member about his ‘not-upto-the-mark’ performance. The team member played the role of a defiant team member. Within minutes they forgot that it was role-play and played out a real life situation. The manager resorted to the style of coercion that he was used to and the team member displayed anger and frustration about not being heard. Resolution did not seem to be option. Hence the role-play was discontinued and feedback was given. Once the participants owned the feedback, they were given the skills that were needed to handle the situation better.

Below is the list of the skills that were focused on:

  • Inquire – ask open-ended questions and be curious to know more about the situation from the other person’s perspective
  • Summarize – listen intently and ensure that you summarize at frequent intervals which helps to clarify the message and allow the other person to know that you are listening
  • Advocate – when voicing your point of view ensure that you do not state it as a definite but rather as a suggestion for which you are getting the other person’s thoughts

The role-play was then rerun. The trainer was actively involved in the role-play to ensure that the three skills of Inquiry, Summarizing and Advocacy were being used effectively. The participants showed dramatic improvement.

Below are the highlights of the comments from the observers and the participants in the role-play:

  • “The manager was genuinely interested in knowing about the details of the from the employee’s perspective.”
  • “When suggestions are offered without the mandate that it has to be followed, it gives the listener the freedom of choosing to use it or discard it. This amplifies the buy-in.”
  • “Recapping the conversation helped to clarify misunderstanding at an early stage which enhanced the efficacy of the message.”
  • The team member, “I felt that my point of view and my well-being was important to my manager. This made me want to contribute more.”

“A beautiful thing happens when we start paying attention to each other. It is by participating more in your relationship that you breathe life into it.” ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

We, at MMM Training Solutions, conduct training on ‘Handling Difficult Conversations’ which is an integral part of any leadership development program. Please contact us if you would like more details on this program.

Handling Critical Situations Productively – A Leadership Essential

Handling Critical Situations Productively – A Leadership EssentialHandling critical situations is a leader’s responsibility. Critical situations are what are usually referred to as ‘stressful situations’. So one of the key areas of the development of a leader is to learn how to handle stress productively or else their capabilities as a leader will be greatly tested.

“You cannot run at full throttle when applying your mindset to all of the different things running through your head. Focusing is the key to manifesting your desires.” – Stephen Richards

Stress usually in the result of lack of time or competence. But of these two I think that time is most important as we can enhance our competence if we have the time. So let us look at some ways in which we can create more time in our day thus increasing our ability to enhance our stress management.

As with any change in our habits, we need to first shift mindsets or beliefs. Below are three common mindsets that come in our way of being more effective with our time;

  1. “Productivity is directly proportional to the amount of effort we put in.”
  2. “I am the only one who can do it right.”
  3. “This problem is urgent and needs to be attended right away.”

“The essence of self-discipline is to do the important thing rather than the urgent thing.” ― Barry Werner

Here are some effective ways to create more space in your day:

  1. Commit to leaving an hour early from work everyday and vehemently deny yourself the permission to carry work home on the weekends.
  2. Organize your paperwork in three piles:
    • Pile A: Contain items that are of indubitable importance and require your personal attention. Do not have more than 3 items in this category.
    • Pile B: Items that are important but do not need your immediate attention. From this pile sort out the ones that you can delegate. This could contribute to not only your time management but also to the learning of your subordinates.
    • Pile C: In this category are items that could contribute to your knowledge base or passion. Books, newspapers, magazines, TV programs etc. Ensure that you allocate time for this and diligently not allow spill over as this is the category that could make you stray.
  3. Ensure that you throw away everything that not important or urgent. Use the question asked by the legendary Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., ex. President and CEO of General Motors: “What is the worst that can happen if I throw this out?” to help you decide which ones you need to discard.
  4. Allocate half a day a week towards time to introspect. A new and fresh environment could give you the space to break out of the routines and tickle your innovation.

“You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.” ― Tony Morgan

 Stress and TimeManagement Training is a part of our leadership development programs because of the immense impact it has on productivity. Contact us to know more about our leadership programs.

Courage – A Leadership Essential

‘I’ve had my ups and downs,’ he says. ‘My fair share of bumpy roads and heavy winds. That’s what made me what I am today. Now I stand here before you. What you see is a body crafted to perfection.  A pair of legs engineered to defy the laws of physics and a mindset to master the most epic of splits.’Jean-Claude Van Damme

Volvo released a commercial ‘The Epic Split’  on Nov 14th, 2013, in which Jean Claude does an amazing feat – does a split between two Volvo trucks. The commercial brings out the precision of the Volvo trucks with perfect clarity. But to me, as an Executive Coach, what was even more fascinating is the feat done by Jean Claude.

As I studied about his life, the two values that he embraced from age 11 were Consistency and Courage. At the age of 11, his father took Jean Claude for martial arts lessons because he was physically weak. At the age of 15, Van Damme started his competitive karate career in Belgium. From 1976-1980, Van Damme compiled a record of 44 victories and 4 defeats in matches.The application and dedication to the sport has contributed significantly to an enviable Hollywood film career for him.

Jean-Claude  has struggled with substance abuse and mental illness for a significant period in his life. He had reached a point when he had strong suicidal tendencies. 1997 was a turning point in his life when started to pull things back to normalcy in his life.

As I read about Jean Claude’s life, I was impressed with the way he kept his singular focus on martial arts through his difficult times. This focus gave him the ability to deal with the other circumstances.

As leaders, do you have a purpose, which gives you direction in your life? “A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” Rudder is the smallest part of a ship without which a ship is directionless. It takes courage to have a purpose and even more courage to hold on to this purpose through challenging times by consistently altering our mindsets. May we have more leaders like Jean-Claude!