As a leader in your company, there comes a time when you will have to convey a truth that isn’t easy to hear or say. Whether you’re telling a prospect he is not a good fit for your company/offerings, an executive she is expecting results that cannot be attained by the methods originally planned, or an employee/contractor/coworker that he isn’t great at his job, following this procedure may be helpful to you:
(1) Prepare yourself.
Consider this situation from all angles.
– How were you involved in this situation (although the initial goal is not to place blame, it is important to accept responsibility where applicable so that better decisions can be made in the future)?
– Did the other person play a role in creating this issue or is it just that his work will be impacted by it moving forward? Furthermore, is it possible that he is already aware of the issue?
– Is there anyone else who will also be impacted by this issue? Would it make more sense for you to have this conversation once with all interested parties or multiple times so that you can speak with each party individually?
– What possible responses can you expect to occur after you break the news (try to imagine both realistic and off the wall responses so you won’t be surprised by any outcome)?
Then, remember what started the issue, how you originally became aware of it, and what steps (if any) have been taken to improve the situation. Organize a list of examples that will be helpful to you in illustrating the importance of this situation.
(2) Prepare the other person.
First, recognize the difference between preparing the other person and scaring the other person. If the situation is serious or particularly hurtful, you may consider utilizing a “compliment sandwich” to soften the blow, but get to the point quickly to avoid extending the agony felt by either of you. As you are doing this, keep the other person’s personality in mind so that you can convey the information in a way that best fits his or her learning/communication style; this will help him or her to process the information more quickly and easily.
The key in this step is to keep your focus on helping the other person to receive the hard truth in the best possible way – you have already had an opportunity to process the information, it’s only fair that the other person should have a turn as well (and there is no reason to make it harder than it has to be for either of you).
(3) State the truth in a clear and concise manner.
This step should be fairly self-explanatory. Once you have quickly and carefully prepared the other person for your news, you should say it as succinctly as possible. This is not the time for jokes or extended explanations. Even if you feel like you’re “softening the blow” even further by going on and on to provide as much information as possible, you aren’t. Imagine ripping off a band-aid (where you provide the necessary information quickly) so that you can move on to the healing (step four, improvement ideas).
At this point, depending on the specific information provided, it may be beneficial to give the other person some time alone to absorb the issues you’ve presented. If you do this, be sure to schedule an appointment during this conversation to continue your discussion soon after so that the issue isn’t forgotten or confused in the meantime.
(4) Share improvement ideas and select a solution.
It is important to put any negative feelings aside and focus on the solution to move your situation forward in a positive manner. Creating a safe atmosphere in which you can brainstorm with the other person will help you to determine the most appropriate course of action quickly. Remember the situation (as stated in step three) and identify the outcome you would prefer to have experienced instead. Then, you can consider possible paths that will connect your current situation to the preferred alternative (because you are brainstorming, it is not threatening to consider options that may or may not include the person(s) who are currently present).
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so (as you continue beyond the brainstorming process) evaluate your options by highlighting the ones which require the least effort, expense, and time to enact. Then, weigh your options and move forward accordingly. If you choose not to include the other person in future efforts, you may find yourself telling another hard truth… which is perfectly fine because doing so is the result of careful preparation, creative brainstorming, and thorough evaluation. Be confident in your decision and learn from your collective mistakes so that they don’t happen again. Proceed down this new path to success and plan to return to this article the next time you have to tell the hard truth.
About the author
Robyn Davis was raised by self-employed parents, learning the ins and outs of business…