Even when things are going extra well, there are times when a problem or issue must be taken head on and tough talking is essential. Delivering tough and sometimes unpopular messages effectively is not only about what you say, but also how you say it.
Here are some tips to help when it’s time to tackle a tough problem and talk through problems which many would rather avoid – whether internally with your team members, or with a valued client.
First focus on objective facts. Put it plainly, without commentary, opinion, value judgements, and sentiment.
Dimension the problem. Measure the situation and describe its impact so that it is widely understood and appreciated.
Numbers speak for themselves. If you have numbers, let them talk for you.
Be clear and forthright about the biggest and most serious issues. Don’t beat around the bush, pussy-foot about, or avoid it.
Succinctly present key facts. Simplify into bullet points, headline statistics, graphs, and diagrams to communicate clearly.
Present your action plan. Even if the final solution isn’t apparent, articulate a plan. Be clear about what will happen next and further steps in your plan.
Say what you expect or need to progress to a solution. Remove any ambiguity about what you want from each person so each understands the part they play in resolving the problem.
This formula does not mean that you or anyone else will enjoy a tough talk, but rather that what you have to say is more likely to hit its target.