I wonder if the following research surprises you. In 2008 Performance Coaching International surveyed 750 managers in public, private and voluntary sectors about how they addressed poor performance in their staff. They found that 70 percent of the managers said that they were either unable or unwilling to have the “courageous conversation” needed to address underperformance.

The managers gave two main reasons. Firstly, there was an underlying fear of having such conversations. Secondly, there was a lack of understanding about how to go about them.

When I’ve had to manage an under-performing member of staff, I’ve learnt that having some know-how about conversation makes a big difference. It’s enabled me to call up my courage, remove obstacles and bring about enhanced performance. It’s also made me feel good. Talking to someone when there were tough things to say without rupturing the relationship is a key skill, not just professionally but personally.

Here are a few observations about what helps a “courageous conversation” to happen:

–   Everyone who’s present participates.

–   Each person says what’s true for them.

–   Everyone is listened to.

–   People talk about what really matters.

–   No one tries to control where the conversation goes.

–   People respect each other’s differences.

What, in your experience, has helped you to talk when you’d rather not? How have you faced into difficult situations? What wisdom can you share with others?

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