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Our work as digital project managers is largely about communicating well. It is important to be able to handle difficult conversations effectively in order to prevent poor team performance, financial misunderstandings, and unrealistic client expectations. These issues can become serious risks for your project. Even the most experienced project managers may feel nervous about having to have a difficult conversation.
Difficult conversations can be difficult for a variety of reasons. They can be awkward and it can be difficult to know what to do and how to say it.
This is not an option. It is crucial to listen well when having difficult conversations
There is a fine line between being professional and being clear enough to get your point across. It can make your project easier and more enjoyable by being able to manage difficult conversations. We’ll be covering five simple steps to successfully handle difficult conversations in this article.
How to have difficult conversations
1. Start with your End Game
Although it might seem counterintuitive, the best place to start a difficult discussion is at the end. Ask yourself: “Why am I having this discussion?”, “What do I want out of it at end?”, “What are the possible outcomes?”
Don’t have the conversation unless you are clear about why you’re having it and what you want out of it. While it may seem like it’s going well, there’s a good possibility that it won’t solve your actual problem. You’ll be back to it in weeks with another awkward conversation.
2. Choose the Right Environment
A good environment for open and honest conversation is another important aspect of having a difficult conversation.
Imagine if someone was going to have a difficult discussion with you. Maybe they’re going give you negative feedback about your performance or tell you that your agency is about to lose $150k on a project. What place would you prefer to have that conversation with? Is it on the shop floor? Most likely not. This would immediately put you on the defensive and make you feel like a public attacker.
Positivity can prevent a difficult conversation from ending in tears
You’ll want it somewhere private, safe, and comfortable. If you need to put distance between your conversations and the office, I recommend a private meeting space or a nearby coffee shop.
Be mindful of what your private space says. Even if it’s the only one available, the HR director’s office can give the wrong impression.
3. Decide who should have the conversation
It will most often be you who has the difficult conversation. That’s simply the luck of managing a project or leading a team. Before you rush to take control, think about who might be better suited for this conversation to achieve the desired result.
One time, I managed a very visible, large, and high-pressured project for my agency. I managed a large team and had an amazing front-end developer as my lead. He was pro-active, responsible, accountable. He was also fun, knowledgeable, easy-going, and a top performer.
As we got closer to our first set development deliverables, he began to get cranky. Then he became more cranky until his behavior started to affect project morale as well as other members of the team. This was not his style and he needed to stop. So I was confronted with an unpleasant conversation with someone who I really did not like.