Difficult Conversations

Nobody enjoys those difficult conversations with employees. Some years ago, I had a leadership role with the local school band program. We ran a number of bands, with the senior band regularly achieving high standards at the various band festivals entered. The conductor for the senior band held the kids to high standards and the results showed.

Unfortunately, there were times where a child didn’t want to attend rehearsal, citing that the conductor was mean and that rehearsal wasn’t fun. There was one example I recall where a student was in tears during rehearsal.

Is Having Fun Important?

As a parent committee we talked about our values and the purpose of the band program. Was it to teach children to love playing music by having fun or by winning medals at band festivals? Ideally it was both, but if we had to prioritise one or the other, we struggled. As the head of the committee it was my responsibility to address this with the conductor, but I wasn’t clear if there was a problem or not.

In the workplace, leaders need clarity to be able to have these difficult conversations. Does someone fit in? Do their decisions fit the values of the organisation? Do their behaviours deliver on our purpose? These conversations are never comfortable and many leaders shy away from them, relegating them to HR or another manager, or not addressing the issue at all.

What’s Important in your Organisation?

When approaching difficult conversations or worse still making a ‘hard decision’, it helps if you and your team fully understand the values and purpose of your organisation. Is it important to win awards, do you prioritise being a family business, is innovation or creativity essential, are you keen to stay local, etc, etc.

Whatever your values and purpose, the clearer they are to you and your team, the easier it is to align your team’s decisions and actions to them. Then if someone just doesn’t fit and doesn’t want to fit, those difficult conversations are easier to have.