If you’re a manager, you’re responsible for the performance of your team. That means ensuring your systems and processes are running smoothly. It also means making sure your team members are happy and productive.
When systems are executed correctly, they produce logical, predictable results. But humans are anything but predictable. Emotions make working with others a constant rollercoaster, which can make the role of manager exceptionally tough.
Even for those of us who love working with people, no one enjoys telling someone they’ve done something wrong or that they need to change their behavior.
But that’s exactly what managers must do for the sake of their team and the bottom line.
Providing this kind of critical feedback, though a necessary part of a manager’s role, can take its toll. Learning how to anticipate and navigate tough conversations is crucial. Fortunately, it’s also a skill that can be developed with practice.
In the below video, Parallel Management founder and CEO Todd Bradberry offers guidance on how managers can prepare for tough emotional conversations.
As Todd shares in this video, being a manager entails having difficult conversations, which are simply conversations where emotions are involved. As managers, we should expect these kinds of tough conversations simply because we are all human, and emotions are part of who we are.
Knowing tough conversations will always carry emotion means you can prepare for them. There are four steps Todd recommends.
- First, before engaging in any management conversation, check in with yourself. Where are you right now, emotionally? How are you feeling? What’s going on for you? Knowing where you are helps you proactively take into account your current emotional state as you enter the conversation.
- Secondly, know yourself. This means being aware of your own tendencies. Do you tend to move quickly, making speedy decisions and barrelling forward? Or are you more cautious, moving at a steadier pace? When giving feedback, do you keep things calm and rational, or do you incorporate emotion as a way of showing your teammates you care, even when delivering tough news? Keep your inherent tendencies in mind as you approach the other person.
- Thirdly, consider the direct report with whom you’re interacting. What are their tendencies? Where do they come from? Where are they right now, emotionally? And how can you frame your feedback in a way that will help them receive it and act on it appropriately?
- Fourthly, plan ahead. Successful managers are intentional about difficult conversations. They know people are professional boss-watchers and that every word they say has greater impact simply because they’re the manager, so they choose their words and message very carefully.
As you apply these four steps, remember the ultimate goal is to be able to predict your own emotional response to your direct report’s probable emotional response to the news you’re delivering, allowing you to intentionally steer the conversation as needed.
Effectively using these four steps requires both self-awareness and social awareness.
Being self-aware is key because it brings a degree of humility: “It’s not that I’m better than you. It’s just that I come from a different place than you. Our perspectives are different.” Being socially aware introduces the element of empathy. Conflict always happens, and when it does, managers must be prepared for the emotions that often accompany it.
By integrating self-awareness and social awareness, managers can execute these four steps to turn difficult conversations into impactful, intentional moments of growth.