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Challenging Conversations - Review

Challenging Conversations – Review

This week, our Monday Motivation was:

As a child, wea learnt the Green Cross Code . .

  • Think.

  • Stop.

  • Look & Listen.

  • Wait.

  • Look & Listen.

  • Arrive Alive.

What if we tried that with our decision making?

Over the last 6 weeks we have been looking at turning a challenging conversation into a confident one. I think this same advice in the Green Cross Code can be carried into our confident conversations too as each time we have a conversation it is part of an ongoing journey of growth in confidence in conversations and a healthy review is a key part of this. Stop. Look. Listen. Think.

A journey

It is all too easy to look at leaders who have years of experience in challenging conversations and think that you could never be like them. It is of course not true. That experienced leader, more than likely found conversations tricky and made mistakes in their past. I can clearly remember feeling worried about having conversations with direct reports and concerned that I would make a mess of it. I can remember coming out of conversations thinking what a hash I had made of it. I still don’t relish them, but I have learnt from all my experiences so that now I know the key elements to have. As we have seen over the last six weeks, we need to

  • Realise the Reason – know the purpose and impact we aspire to for this conversation

  • Recognise the issues – know the types of issues coming into play in the conversation in ourselves and them

  • Reaction awareness – know the emotional ‘chimp’ reaction we could receive and respond to connect to the purpose

  • Raise with 4P’s – the importance to PRIME the conversation, bring it to the PURPOSE, PARTNER with them to find a solution and PLAN

  • Respond with 4P’s – It’s the same 4 P’s. PRIME them by helping them know you are not a threat, bring it back to the PURPOSE you stand for and PARTNER with them by listening, understanding their situation and then work with them to PLAN a better way forward. It’s collaborative which brings ownership of everyone and allows people to not feel out of control and therefore it reduces the angst and trauma.

  • Review for growth – Lastly is the Review. Conversations can be helpful to us, even when we think they have not gone well and they can be learning opportunities if we take time to review them.

In sports, you perform and compete and then afterwards you huddle together as a team and review the performance. The next week you put those things into action against another team and then same again, at the end you huddle and review. Over the season you improve. Having coached a youth football team over several seasons I can remember this process and then looking back and seeing their growth in skills and as a team. The same needs to be had with challenging conversations. Bit by bit review how it went and learn and improve. See each meeting as part of a journey, not a binary pass/fail moment.


Daniel Coyle in his book Culture Code, explains that the best cultures have After Action Reviews (AAR) where performance is reviewed, analysed and simple change made to improve for next time. Matthew Syed in his book Black Box Thinking talks about the importance of reviewing what happened, saying what you see, asking what one thing would improve the situation. Having a review on what happened in a conversation is therefore crucial to learn what works and what needs improving. In my training on this, I encourage people to consider

  • Perspective - Say what you see. What did the drone view look like? What was the other person’s bodycam view on the meeting?

  • Person – What did I learn about the person from this exchange? How could this be helpful in the future for working with them and working with others.

  • Place – What helped in the environment where it took place? What could I change to help improve this?

  • Performance – What did I do well? Where did I notice things didn’t work so well?

First Aid

In my youth, I played rugby. I loved the game and I also reaped the physical rewards of the game after bruising encounters. Tired muscles, bruises and in some cases broken ribs. After moments like that I needed to learn to accept the first aid and then take time to rest and recuperate.

After we have bruising encounters in conversations, we need to do the same. I talk in my training about

  • Safe people

  • Safe places

  • Safe possessions

I know as a headteacher, after a bruising conversation with a particularly challenging parent where I was mentally and emotionally exhausted, I would go for a walk to decompress and then head to the Early Years classes where the 3 to 5 year olds would renew your spirit with smiles, inquisitiveness and quite often a free bogey offered to you thrown in too to make your smile! This was a safe place to recharge. What are yours that help you recharge? A park, an open space, woodland?

Knowing our safe people, those who can listen and help us to process is key too. We don’t want those who will defend us and be vitriolic (although that can be nice too!). We want those who listen and help us to calm and gain perspective.

Safe possessions can be something that reminds us of safety, security or maybe a wider perspective. It can be a charm given to us by grandma to remind us of family. It can be a cuddly blanket that we have had for years that reminds us of rest and recharge. It can even be an item of clothing that makes us feel good or reminds us of who we are. My suit jacket was often called my ‘jacket of power’ to remind me that I was a leader when inside I was a little bruised.

And repeat

There is the age-old phrase, ‘get back on the bike’. A reminder that after a fall, you dust yourself off, learn from the experience and get back on and ride on. The same is the case with turning challenging conversations into confident ones. Think, look, listen, get back on and try again. Each time. In time you can become a confident rider of the challenging conversation.

Can we help you?

We hope this blog has been helpful and if you would like some more targeted support to explore having difficult conversations and gain better insight then Everyday Leader is here to help you. Our clients find their coaching empowering, as we help them gain a full perspective and find a way forward. We equally run group training on ‘Holding a challenging Conversation’ which we can run online or in person. If you have a challenge and you would like our support, then do get in contact with us. Give us a call on 01449 710438 or email if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.


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