Do difficult conversations keep you awake at night?

    One of the most challenging aspects of leadership is dealing with difficult conversations, and even the most knowledgeable manager can lack confidence when having to deal with a disciplinary issue, internal conflict or challenging performance management discussions.

    And in increasingly competitive times, the emphasis on robust performance management can put pressure on managers to maximise productivity, and cause some employees to feel that they just can’t meet expectations.

    The inability of an organisation’s leaders to deal with such situations has been cited by employees as one of the major reasons for seeking alternative employment, so maintaining workplace harmony can protect the time, energy and cost invested in recruiting and developing workers.

    For many managers, the immediate response to a challenging staff issue is to ignore it, but this only leads to increased resentment within the team and often escalates the problem. There is still an organisational culture of dealing with difficulties in a reactive way, as and when they arise. 

    Debora Brockwell, programme director on the Henley Business School’s Developing Management Practice (DMP) programme, believes that good managers and leaders understand the options and develop a confidence in applying a range of approaches that will yield positive outcomes whatever the characteristics of their colleagues.

    “There needs to be a robust, systematic and clearly understood approach to performance management,” says Brockwell, “which includes regular dialogue as well as annual reviews.”

    The DMP programme uses a variety of tools and techniques – including the Thomas-Kilmann and Myers-Briggs – to assess delegates’ styles and preferences, and this helps to emphasise the flexible approach needed to resolve conflict.

    The programme introduces new perspectives that support individuals to have level-headed conversations. This instils the confidence needed to tackle difficult scenarios by avoiding the conflict in the first place, or recognising when action is needed and taking that action promptly and decisively.


    Diana Richards                   01491 418767                  exec@henley.ac.uk                    henley.ac.uk/DMP                   @HenleyExecEd

                                                         Henley Bus Sch Uni Reading