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A Practical Tip for Difficult Conversations

Do you ever find yourself avoiding difficult conversations and struggling with the challenge of providing feedback when a team member’s performance isn’t quite hitting the mark?

If so, you’re not alone. It’s a common concern that many leaders and managers face.

In this article and video, I’m sharing a straightforward and practical approach that can significantly reduce the chances of a negative or confrontational reaction when having those difficult conversations.



The Fairness Factor

The key to avoiding negative reactions during feedback lies in addressing a fundamental human need—fairness.

Neuroscience reveals that the brain reacts similarly to feelings of unfair treatment as it does to physical pain. That’s why it’s crucial to sidestep perceptions of unfairness during feedback discussions.

The magic lies in providing what we call data-based feedback—specific insights derived from tangible sources like customer service recordings, engagement surveys, or sales data.


Specificity is Key

Let’s dive into why specificity matters.

Consider this scenario: “Hey, I want to talk to you about your timekeeping because you’re always turning up late to our team meeting.”

This generic approach can trigger defensiveness and is likely to lead to difficult conversations.

Instead, imagine saying, “Hey, I’d like to discuss your timekeeping because I’ve noticed you’ve been consistently 10 minutes late for our Friday team meeting over the past three weeks. I want to understand what’s going on.”

Specificity disarms defensiveness, making it harder for individuals to push back. It also reduces the likelihood of them feeling unfairly attacked.


Two Sides to Every Story

Remember, feedback is a two-way street.

Acknowledge that there might be a valid reason for the observed performance dip, change in behaviour, or attitude. Approach what you perceive as difficult conversations with an openness to understanding the full picture.

It’s an opportunity to share observations and for the individual to respond and collaboratively find a way forward that enhances performance.


So What, Now What?

I encourage you to embrace this method of providing feedback as a powerful tool in your leadership arsenal.

By integrating data-based, specific insights into your conversations, you’re not just addressing performance; you’re fostering a culture of open communication and growth.

If you’re looking for 1-2-1 leadership coaching for you or your team, email me at and let’s start the conversation.

Your coach,

Corporate Whack Attack


Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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