How to Critical Conversations to Respond to Ignored Action Plans

At the end of critical conversations, an action plan should be created that reflects the agreements reached. But if action plans or agreements are ignored, what should you do? If action plans or agreements regarding changes in behavior aren’t happening immediately, be more assertive before the situation gets out of control.

You send action plans and follow-up notes immediately after critical conversations to reinforce that changes need to happen immediately. But if those changes aren’t happening, have a follow-up critical conversation using the first three parts of the EDGE model.

Following is an example of how to incorporate the steps of the EDGE model to make sure your employees are following action steps and agreements.

  • Request the follow-up meeting: “Hi, John. Can you please come to my office for five minutes?”

  • Examine what happened: “Two days ago we had a conversation about changing your tone when you communicate with team members. Yesterday afternoon I heard you tell Sally, our new intern, that she is just going to have to find out the answer to her problem on her own. We agreed that all future conversations would be positive and cooperative. Do you agree with what the expectations were?”

  • Decide on next steps: “I would like to ask the human resources team to join us in creating a formal plan for expectations to help this behavior change immediately.”

  • Gain commitment: “Can we set up this meeting for tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.?”

  • Evaluate the impact: During the meeting with HR, evaluate the impact (the fourth step in the EDGE model).

If behaviors and conduct don’t immediately change, the follow-up conversation is more direct than the first conversation. You’re still genuine, wanting to turn the situation around, and you’re still using facts rather than emotions during the conversation. The difference is that you’re leaving no room for misunderstanding or forgetfulness by directing what commitment is made to move forward.

If you don’t see an immediate change in behavior, leave no room for misinterpretation about what that change looks like and the consequences of not making the change happen.

But keep in mind that mastering critical conversations isn’t about being a legal expert or an auditor of company human resources policy. Mastering the art and science of critical conversations is about coming to the table with a genuine desire to help make situations better.

However, if everyone follows the action plan, it is appropriate to thank the other parties for their work. Changing behavior isn’t easy, and recognizing the effort will help to reinforce behaviors and create an environment to build off the success of the action plan.

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