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023: Leading with a Limp, Part 3: Having Hard Conversations

The Bill Perry Show

Release Date: 05/21/2019

In this Leading with a Limp podcast series, we talk about how leaders can effectively manage teams during times of conflict and move toward organizational health.

If you’ve been a leader for any length of time, you know that strife, betrayal, and even personal wounds will come. The secret to leading well isn’t to avoid these painful times but to embrace them and heal. Creating an exceptionally healthy environment requires intentional, hard work. But do it, and your team will flourish.

In this episode, we focus on the necessity of handling hard conversations with employees well.

First, Know Your Story and Honor Theirs

Awareness of our tendencies under stress gives you and your team the advantage when the need for difficult conversations arises. Individual stress profiles, such as those provided in a DISC or MBTI profile, offer you insight into what to expect from each other when the stakes are high.

There Is Always More to the Story

Our own reactions under stress, and the reactions of those we live and work with, are rarely the product of the immediate moment. Unless the moment is an expression of malice or violence, our reactions are most often an extension of a deeper story. How we interpret moments of stress is often distorted by the lens of experience. This is why it is critical to know your team and to develop deep levels of employee trust. Take time, and be intentional to know their stories.

Develop Self-Control

Managing your reactions is a function of your emotional intelligence. The good news is, this is an area that we can all grow in.

Step Away and Come Back

In the heat of a stressful conversation where the stakes are high, self-control may look like walking away, taking a time out. This is an acceptable strategy as long as you come back to the table and reframe the conversation in a solutions-oriented posture.

Having Hard Conversations with Employees

When conversations take a heated turn, consider these three steps:

  1. Rehearse the objective.
  2. Acknowledge feelings—honor what’s in the emotional atmosphere.
  3. Stick to the facts.

Navigating difficult conversations is awkward and uncomfortable for most of us, but the advantage goes to those who do it with grace!


A valuable resource for additional thoughts on difficult conversations is Crucial Conversations by the team at VitalSmarts. It is loaded with examples and strategies for facilitating productive conversations when the stakes are high.

If you recognize conflict in your team or a limp in your leadership but don’t know where to begin, let’s talk. We offer a great diagnostic tool to determine the strengths and liabilities of your organization. It’s a relatively pain-free process by which we obtain feedback from your team members to identify the roadblocks and blind spots in your pursuit of a healthy team.  

Connect with me for a free, complimentary conversation about our organizational-health process. It won’t cost you more than 30 minutes of your time to find out if some feedback would be valuable for you and your team.  

If you haven’t already, we’d love your feedback on the show. Leave a comment, a review, or even a topic you’d like to hear me cover.

Until next time, lead well!