Need To Have Difficult Conversations At Work? 5 Steps To Facilitate A Tough Meeting

by | Mar 17, 2020 | Leadership, Personal Growth, Relationships

Photo credit: You X Ventures on Unsplash

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Where To Start With Difficult Conversations At Work

If you know that the meeting is going to… 

✔️Be challenging 

✔️Be full of strong opinions

✔️Have diverse perspectives

✔️Contain lots of emotion (more emotion than is typical because the opinions are so vastly different)

✔️Involve riskier decisions than normal…

Then I’d encourage you to prepare by having a meeting before the meeting. 

The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out who the influencer will be in the room. That’s the person you’ll want to have a meeting with. Next, volunteer to facilitate the meeting to help the influencer and the entire team achieve your shared purpose. Finally, together, you’ll agree on the shared purpose for the difficult meeting. 

Photo credit: Perry Grone on Unsplash

How To Facilitate Difficult Conversations At Work

As the facilitator, it’s your job to guide the conversation and keep everyone on track. This may be challenging at times because of what’s at stake. You can do this by following these steps: 

#1. State The Shared Purpose

Begin the difficult meeting by stating that shared purpose for the entire group. This is an important place to start because it gives everyone common ground to start from. And as Howard Schultz says:

“When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” 

Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

#2. Set Expectations For The Meeting

Next, you’ll want to set expectations for the meeting. 

Charles Kettering says that “high achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectations.” 

But before you do that, it’s important to acknowledge that there are strong and diverse opinions in the room. Remind everyone that you and the influencer value those opinions and that you need those opinions in order to come up with a good solution for your shared purpose.

Tell the people in the room that they are vital to solving the problem together. 

Then, after validating the team, set expectations by saying, “At the end of this meeting, we will have a new understanding and way forward through this challenge.”

Again, reiterate that you need everyone to express their opinions so you can come up with the best possible solution for that shared purpose. Finally, you can ask, “What would get in the way of you being able to express your opinions today?”

Photo credit: You X Ventures on Unsplash

#3. Brainstorm What Might Stop Open Dialogue

The third step involves brainstorming as a group what might get in the way of open dialogue.

You want to involve everyone in the brainstorming so they’re coming up with their own ideas of what might get in the way. 

For instance, some suggestions might be… 

  • If a colleague accuses them of something
  • If a team member goes silent and doesn’t express his or her opinion 
  • If a person attacks or becomes defensive 
  • If someone refuses to listen… 

All of these things could get in the way of each member of the team feeling comfortable and safe to express their opinions.

And if some people on the team don’t express their opinion, then the group will be missing out on everyone’s contribution and the solution may not be the very best it could be.

#4. Get Permission To Hold The Team To The Shared Purpose

Now that you’ve brainstormed together what would get in the way of expressing opinions, request permission from the group to facilitate in a way so that if someone violates your shared purpose, you can bring the room back to that shared purpose again. 

#5. Facilitate The Conversation To Reach A Solution

As the facilitator, you now need to lead the conversation and stick to the agreed expectations. When someone deviates or violates the groups’ expectations, it’s your job to bring the group back so the team can come up with a great solution to move forward.

As you facilitate, you’ll also be guiding the group’s understanding of what needs to happen in the room in order to reach a great solution to move forward. 

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Have you ever facilitated a difficult conversation at work? Share your thoughts in the comments below! We love to hear from you.

About Ann

Ann is on a mission to equip Christian women to communicate confidently and clearly for a closer connection. The good news? Communication is a skill so anyone can learn it even if you’re struggling to communicate right now. Want to communicate more clearly and confidently?…

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Ann Visser


Life Coach

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