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Preparing for a Difficult Conversation

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Difficult Conversation

Karen M. Raisch-Siegel, the executive director of LifeWorks of Southwest General, shares how to best prepare for a difficult conversation.

Difficult conversations are hard to have but even worse to avoid. These days especially it can be a bit tougher due to someone’s mental state. What was once a normal feedback conversation could turn into a crucial one.

Recently I attended a workshop for my organization. The workshop was led by the company ImprovEdge with the focus on conversations and how to have them. A very important step they presented was the preparation stage before having a crucial conversation. Not only do we as the leader need to prepare, the staff member who we are having the discussion with needs to prepare as well. 

The more prepared for the conversation we both are, the greater the chances of a positive outcome. This preparation step will set us up to better handle the discussion and control our emotions.

Here are steps they suggest following in preparation of a difficult conversation:

Step One: Connect

  • Write down what needs to be discussed.
  • Think about how you can better prepare for the discussion.
  • Make sure you have an appropriate time and place to meet. Allow enough time to answer any questions.
  • Share with the employee why you are meeting to allow them time to prepare. 
  • Think about how you can optimize this discussion.

Step Two: Learn

  • Uncover your perceptions. What are the facts and what are your assumptions?
  • Ask questions. What do I need to learn?
  • Review this person’s strengths. When has this person done well before?
  • Create a vision to possibly brainstorm with them.
  • What is the ideal outcome?
  • What would be the possible steps to get to this outcome?

Step Three: Act

  • Take action and explain why it is important to take action now.
  • What would be their next steps?
  • What is negotiable and what is not?
  • Commit to follow up. When and where will follow up happen? How can you support the change and help the staff member?

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Karen M. Raisch-Siegel

Karen M. Raisch-Siegel is the executive director of LifeWorks of Southwest General, a health and fitness facility owned and operated by Southwest General Hospital. Karen has been the executive director for over 15 years and is responsible for full operations of the health and wellness center. Karen holds a master’s of science degree in exercise physiology and a bachelor’s of science degree in advertising and business administration. She is a member of the REX roundtables for executives, currently serves on the Middleburg Heights Chamber of Commerce board, the Olmsted Chamber of Commerce board and Valley Riding Inc. board of directors, and is a certified group exercise instructor who actively continues to teach.

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