You can’t avoid it. You need to have difficult conversations with your agency employees. And they need to have tough conversations with each other and with you. There are some tips and tools that can help those conversations go smoothly and build trust and confidence among your team.

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Hey everybody, Drew McClellan here from Agency Management Institute, this week to you from Louisville, Kentucky. I was on-site with the leadership team today and we were talking about their efforts to learn how to have more candid conversation with one another or how to have greater candor, how to be more direct with one another, but also, obviously, how to do it in a respectful way that gets the results that they’re all trying to accomplish. And there are a couple truths about having candid conversations and being direct. Number one, no one looks forward to those conversations. Very few people, very, very few people are comfortable having candid conversations. Number two, no one is excited about being on the receiving end of those conversation because, normally, it is not about something you did well or something your department did well or a celebration. It’s about a problem or a challenge or something that you dropped the ball on. So, no one is excited about being on the receiving end but the truth of it is we have to be good at receiving and giving that kind of feedback. So, a couple tips that we talked about today that might be helpful for you and your team. Number one, having a catch phrase or a way you enter into those conversation that warns the receiver that they’re about to be the recipient of some feedback. So, something like, “Hey Bad Beth, I need to have a really candid conversation with you and I need your help because, as you know, this is not my strength and so I’m trying to be really direct and really honest with you but in a kind and emphatic and respectful way, so I would love for you to help me have a good conversation.” So, that’s number one. Number two, asking, “Is this a good time for us to have that conversation?” Because sometimes somebody is on a deadline or they’ve had a lousy day or they are just not in the space to receive what you’re about to say no matter how well you deliver it. So, “Hey, need to have a difficult conversation and I can use your help because, as you know, I’m trying to get better at this, so I would love for you to help me have this conversation and I would welcome some feedback on how I did.” Number one. Number two, “Is this a good time to have this conversation?” And number three, after the conversation is done, a day or two later, to go back and say, “How did I do? I know that what I had to say to you is difficult to hear. How did I deliver the message? Can you give me some feedback?” Now, you’re the recipient of that feedback. “Can you give me some feedback on how I can do that better next time?” Those three things. And by the way, if you’re the recipient, maybe proactively going and saying to that person the next day, “You know what? I thought you did a pretty good job. I didn’t like what you said but I appreciated the way you said it.” Or, “You know what? I heard you but what I didn’t hear was a lot of empathy or a lot of respect,” or whatever it was that was missing from the conversation. As team members, we have to help each other and do this better, both on the giving and receiving end. Those are three ways, simple ways really, that you can help each other do better when it comes to having candid conversations. All right? Give those a try. Love to hear how they work for you. Talk to you next week.

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