Ever struggle to find just the right words when you’re in a sensitive conversation? If you’re in a leadership role, it’s not uncommon.


birdsOne executive I worked with admitted he tried to avoid one of his direct reports.


“I never know how to approach her without striking a nerve.” He complained about having to tip toe around issues. The idea of confronting the person became more stressful to him than dealing with the negative impact of ignoring it.


If you’re like many of the executives I coach, you just want to get things done, but “people issues” get in the way. While the words you choose to use are important, there are other factors that matter as well.


Here are some quick tips to help you address difficult people and situations as they arise.


Focus on…


Your intention: What do you want to happen as a result of the conversation you know you need to have? Be clear about the purpose or expectation you have for the conversation.


For example, your intention may be to encourage some type of change or to help someone improve performance. Maybe you’re trying to smooth relationships.


Your tone: What do you want the person to feel as a result of the conversation? Encouragement? Trust? Willingness to improve?


Keep your tone light when you can. If you are stressed and serious, other people will sense that. Have a positive expectation for the conversation.


Your questions: Hear the difference between…”WHAT were you thinking?” and “What do you think you can do differently next time?”


Use good questions to help bring out the best in others, not to shut them down.


Your timing: Timing is everything. If you are reacting to a person or situation that makes you angry, wait. Allow the dust in your mind to settle.


Many times the situation is not as bad as it first appears. Even if you’re ready to have the conversation, the timing may be off for the other person. Read the other person. Open a difficult conversation when people are more likely to be receptive.


More people and companies are recognizing the value of coaching conversations to address difficult issues. They realize that the role of the leader is not always to solve problems, but to be a good coach or mentor–to build capability in others.


Whether you are trying improve a difficult situation or develop a top performer, make your conversation count.


WorkMatters-Newsletter-JUL2016-Cover-LOIf you, or someone you know, wants to lead a little easier, DOWNLOAD my latest newsletter on how to have coaching conversations that get results. 


The newsletter includes a short coaching conversation checklist to serve as a guide. 
You’ll reduce your stress and increase confidence in your coaching conversations.
Share it with others who may benefit!


Gayle Lantz is a leadership consultant, speaker, author and founder of WorkMatters, Inc.
She works with organizations, executives and top performers who are serious about growing their business and themselves.