Critical Conversations For Dummies
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Discussing an employee's poor performance can be an emotional experience, but with good critical conversation skills, the conversation doesn't have to end poorly. To conduct a meaningful performance conversation, be prepared to explain why the conversation is happening in a clear way.

State the purpose of the discussion to set the tone and focus, and briefly define why the conversation is important to the employee and the organization.

The purpose portion of the conversation should include a compelling reason why performance is important to the organization and to their career. For example, you may balance how completing tasks leads to higher productivity in the organization, and completing tasks on time demonstrates the individual is valuable to the company and has career potential.

The key to a good performance conversation is to have the sender of the information be crystal clear on the message. To do this, ask yourself (the sender), “What message do I want to send to my employee and why?”

Is it that the employee needs to be on time to work, or is it that when the employee comes into work late the rest of the team feels disrespected because the team is picking up the employee’s work? Once you know the message and why the message needs to be delivered in a critical conversation, you can create an agenda that gets the message across clearly but with compassion.

The next preparation step is to define the desired outcomes in advance. During the critical conversation, both the initiator and the receiver of the information work on action plans to change behaviors and work styles.

But you don’t need to come into the discussion with a completely blank sheet of paper when it comes to what you want to get out of the discussion.

Write down the goals that you want to achieve. These goals could be focused on the conversation, like delivering feedback effectively, and overall performance goals, like improving an employee’s performance in the next two weeks, making a team operate more effectively during the next project, or knowing that when work is given to an employee, it will get done.

The goals that you come into the conversation with will be the benchmarks for the action plan that you create together during the discussion.

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About the book author:

Christina Tangora Schlachter, PhD, is a Certified Professional Coach. She has created and taught courses on communication skills, crucial conversations for new managers, communication for professionals, and dealing with difficult conversations. She is the coauthor of Leading Business Change For Dummies and is the Chief Leader of She Leads.

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