It may be natural to fear having difficult conversations at work, but this negative mindset is not helpful to either party and can lead to a pattern of avoidance and problematic manager-team relationships.
To succeed in a fintech management role
, you must learn to rise above the noise in your head to create a calm, clear, and decisive strategy for approaching delicate conversations in the workplace.
Propose the Meeting in a Professional and Thoughtful Way
Often the challenge lines are drawn even before the meeting starts, which is both unhelpful and unnecessary. Don’t ‘go in’ harshly, as it will only make the person defensive or nervous - which is unlikely to lead to a positive outcome.
Here are some possible options for proposing a meeting in a way that makes it clear they’re going to have the opportunity to have their side of the story heard.
- I’ve got a few ideas on how we can work better together, and I’d like to hear what you think?
- I need your assistance to resolve the conflict that’s come up lately. Can we schedule a chat?
- We need to improve your collaboration with the team, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on how you want to go about this?
- We’re going to need to discuss what’s happened here today; I want to know, in detail, what happened?
- There have been one or two performance issues lately, so I’d like to hear your perspective on what’s changed and what and where we can improve?
Know Your Feelings
Challenging team members often bring out strong personal feelings in managers - you’re only human after all, and it isn’t always easy to separate the personal from the professional.
As such, it’s a valuable exercise to sit down before the meeting and dispassionately assess whether there’s something about this person that triggers you, and what your role in the conflict is.
If you’re wondering if your personal feelings about a person are clouding your professional judgement, ask yourself this: If you discovered that the person had a valid reason for behaving as he or she did, would you be a) relieved, or b) a bit annoyed they didn’t tell you that in the first place?
Know What Positive Outcome You Want to Achieve
You should go into the meeting feeling that a positive outcome is possible and that you genuinely want to reach it; because it is.
So often ‘difficult’ conversations arise because of lack of communication in the first instance. Alternatively, woolly objectives that were poorly communicated.
A great deal of our fear about ‘difficult situations’ at work, is the fact that we’ve labelled them ‘difficult’ even before going into the meeting.
We tend to spend time imagining all the possible scenarios of how the meeting could play out, but in truth, there’s no way you can know, and hours spent worrying is not a productive use of your time.
When you find yourself falling into this trap, refocus on the positive outcome you want.
Get yourself in the right headspace
It’s important to go into the meeting in a focused but calm manner. Do some breathing exercises beforehand to push your body into a state of calm, such as the 4-7-8 breathing technique
In the meeting, take notice of your physical reaction to their responses - is your heart rate rising, cheeks flushed, breathing more shallow? When you notice your stress response is triggered, take deep, calming breaths to re-centre yourself. You’re the manager, so manage your reactions.
Don’t go in Accusing
Frame the situation as a question to get their side of the story. For example, if your business analyst is unwilling to collaborate and share knowledge with the team, you could start with: ‘I’ve noticed you prefer to work autonomously, but some of the work we do here requires collaboration to reach our goals. Is there a reason you don’t like to work with the team, and is there something we can do to make teamwork easier on you?’
Allow the Other Person To Share Their Story
Invite them to give ‘their side’ and don’t interrupt. The only way you’ll be able to manage this situation to a good outcome is if you genuinely understand their viewpoint.
Once they’ve said their piece, reaffirm what they’ve said, to show that you have listened and heard. Remember, you don’t need to agree with them, you simply have to show that you value their point of view.
Also, do not take things personally, even if they are personal attacks. Your role as manager is to rise above personal insults and keep returning to the purpose of the meeting and the pertinent facts.
Move on to The Solution Phase
After they’ve spoken, move on to finding solutions. Ask them for their opinion, and together with what you require, forge a plan for improvement.
Make it clear that you want them to succeed and will support them, but you must be crystal clear that the situation has to turn around.
Lay out a clear timeline and expectations of improvement, as well as the ramifications if your expectations aren’t met.
As a manager, you’ll navigate countless ‘difficult conversations’ in your career. Mastering them is a rite of passage for any successful fintech leader.
Have Clear Examples of the Behaviour That You Want to Change, And Why It Matters.
For example, if someone has been ‘harassing’ a team member, pick two strong examples of this behaviour and outline the problem if it continues.
Don’t go overboard here with lots of examples, and don’t go back months in time, as it undermines your argument if you have to dig up ancient history for examples.
[Note: On that subject, always call the person ‘up’ on problematic behaviour when you see it, don’t let it escalate as unhelpful behaviour unchecked may have even led to the situation you now have to handle.]
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