We have all found ourselves on the receiving end of a difficult conversation at some time or another. Sometimes we are answering for poor results or perhaps not achieving a goal. When it happens it is easy to let emotions cloud our judgment, making it difficult to be objective. I have personally used the steps below during just such an occasion and found them quite helpful.
Write down what they said and filter
This is a stressful time. It’s easy to miss things or infer the wrong meaning. Don’t rely upon your memory. Write down what was said and filter for meaning.
Look at it: How much do you not understand?
Are you 100% clear on the issues above? This is a stressful time for everyone, even the person delivering the bad news. It’s likely that after filtering there will be some things that are not clear. Seek clarity. Complete understanding is the goal.
Be objective and assume that you caused the problem!
Don’t play the blame game. It was your responsibility, whatever it was. Own up to it.
Repeat after me: “Whether due to failure to not deal with something or through decisions made or actions taken, I’m responsible for the current state.”
What have you not dealt with?
Many times we find we have not dealt with issues for a variety of reasons. List them here.
Don’t assume that you understand the expectations – ask clarifying questions!
Also don’t assume that they understand your expectations – provide clarifying answers!
Get directly involved and understand the problem
Remember the lost finger! - My brother tells a story about a young worker who lost a finger in a factory machine. The factory engineers said he must have circumvented the safety features, while the young worker insisted he followed all safety procedures. My brother, who was the plant manager at the time, took it upon himself to test the machine using a broomstick and sure enough, he found that using the machine as specified could cause the material to jump, potentially causing serious injury.
If my brother had not gotten involved everyone would have believed the safety engineers and not corrected the problem.
1. Show the problem w/data – This demonstrates understanding,
2. Show the causal – pinpoint the underlying issue,
3. Show the solution – provide a solution