Getting the Best Results from Those Difficult Conversations

Articles about “difficult conversations” are a staple of leadership blogs. And little wonder. Sharing unpleasant news, or speaking frankly and honestly about the need for personal or professional improvement, is sensitive work. How do we move past the discomfort and do what needs to be done for the greater good? Wise counsel is always welcome.

Here’s a collection of some of the best advice we’ve seen in recent months. As you might expect if you follow the ABPC Facebook page, the Harvard Business Review is well-represented. I’ve included a short descriptor for each article and kept their original titles for the most part. Hope you find some good, just-in-time tips.

How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don’t Like Conflict

Avoiding or delaying a difficult conversation can hurt your relationships and create other negative outcomes. It may not feel natural at first, especially if you dread discord, but you can learn to dive into these tough talks by reframing your thoughts around partnership principles. Five excellent tips from Joel Garfinkle. (Harvard Business Review)


Why Won’t Our Principal Collaborate With Us?

So often we think teachers are the ones who don’t want to collaborate, school leader Peter DeWitt writes in his “Finding Common Ground” column. But sometimes it’s the principal who insists on the need for collaboration but doesn’t want to be a part of it. In such cases, DeWitt says, teachers may have to lure the school leader in. (Education Week)


Eight Ways to Get a Difficult Conversation Back on Track

Some leaders think that if they “win” an argument — through logic, force, or stamina — subordinates will just “proceed to act” according to their wishes. Not so, say executive coach Monique Valcour. She shares eight ideas that can help assertive leaders learn to focus on genuine agreement, not compliance. (Harvard Business Review)


Develop a Game Plan for That Conversation You’ve Been Putting Off

Carrying an issue without resolution is like carrying debt. The longer you wait, the more interest you’ll pay in anxiety and dread. Think through what you need to say and focus your energy on delivering the message in the kindest way possible. Author and consultant Liane Davey highlights key elements of a good game plan. (Harvard Business Review)


How to Have Crucial Conversations in Less Than Ideal Circumstances

How do we have crucial conversations in our professional work in less than ideal circumstances? It may be in a crowd, in the elevator, in email, on skype, or when the presence of others may change the way people act. Crucial Conversations trainer Emily Hoffman shares four quick tips for those times when you’re “constrained by all the realities of life.” (Vital Smarts)


How to Work With Someone Who Isn’t a Team Player

When a team member procrastinates or displays a bad attitude, there’s a real risk of social contagion that drags down the morale and productivity of those around them. Don’t jump to conclusions but don’t let the situation fester either. Carolyn O’Hara shares some essential do’s and don’ts and two short case studies. (Harvard Business Review)


How to Make Raising Difficult Issues Everyone’s Job

Are members of your leadership team sometimes reluctant to critique the decisions of colleagues who have responsibility in other areas of the school organization? If so, you may see the parallels in this reflection on the difference between making it psychologically safe to speak up and setting an expectation that people actually do it. (Harvard Business Review)

John Norton is the senior communications consultant for the Alabama Best Practices Center. A former vice president for information at the Southern Regional Education Board, John is also the founder and co-editor of MiddleWeb, a website for educators serving students in grades 4-8.