People - Top Tips - Managing difficult situations

What you need to know

Four Steps to a Successful Outcome

The majority of the work in any conflict conversation is work you do on yourself. No matter how well the conversation begins, youÕll need to stay in charge of yourself, your purpose and your emotional energy.

Breathe, centre, and continue to notice when you become off-centre – and choose to return again. This is where your power lies. By choosing the calm, centred state, youÕll help your opponent/partner to be more centred, too.

Centring is not a step; centring is how you are as you take the steps.


Step #1: Inquiry

Cultivate an attitude of discovery and curiosity. Pretend you donÕt know anything and try to learn as much as possible about your opponent/partner and their point of view.

What do they really want? What are they not saying?

Let them talk until theyÕre finished. DonÕt interrupt except to acknowledge.

Whatever you hear, donÕt take it personally. ItÕs not really about you. Try to learn as much as you can in this phase of the conversation. YouÕll get your turn, but donÕt rush it.


Step #2: Acknowledgement

Acknowledgement means to show that youÕve heard and understood. Try to understand them so well you can make their argument for them. Then do it.

Explain back to them what you think theyÕre really going for. Guess at their hopes and honour their position. They wonÕt change unless they see that you see where they stand. Then they might. No guarantees. Acknowledge whatever you can, including your own defensiveness if it comes up. ItÕs fine; it just is. You can decide later how to address it.

Acknowledgement can be difficult if we associate it with agreement. Keep them separate. My saying, Òthis sounds really important to you,Ó doesnÕt mean IÕm going to go along with your decision.


Step #3: Advocacy

When you sense that theyÕve expressed all their energy on the topic, itÕs your turn. What can you see from your perspective that theyÕve missed? Help clarify your position without minimising theirs.

For example: ÒFrom what youÕve told me, I can see how you came to the conclusion that IÕm not a team player. And I think I am. When I introduce problems with a project, IÕm thinking about its long-term success. I donÕt mean to be a critic, though perhaps I sound like one. Maybe we can talk about how to address these issues so that my intention is clear.Ó


Step #4: Problem-Solving

Now youÕre ready to begin building solutions. Brainstorming is useful, and continued inquiry. Ask your opponent/partner what they think would work.

Whatever they say, find something that you like and build on it.

If the conversation becomes adversarial, go back to inquiry. Asking for the otherÕs point of view usually creates safety, and theyÕll be more willing to engage.

If youÕve been successful in centring, adjusting your attitude, and in engaging with inquiry and useful purpose, building sustainable solutions will be easy.


Practice, practice, practice!

The art of conversation is like any art – with continued practice you acquire skill and ease.

You, too, can create better working relationships, ease communication problems and improve the quality of your work environment. YouÕre on the way, and here are some additional hints:


Tips and suggestions


1.   A successful outcome will depend on two things: how you are and what you say. How you are (centred, supportive, curious, problem-solving) will greatly influence what you say.


1.   Acknowledge emotional energy – yours and theirs – and direct it towards a useful purpose.


1.   Know and return to your purpose at difficult moments.


1.   DonÕt take verbal attacks personally. Help your opponent/partner come back to centre.


1.   DonÕt assume they can see things from your point of view.


1.   Practice the conversation with a friend before holding the real one.


1.   Mentally practice the conversation. See various possibilities and visualise yourself handling them with ease. Envision the outcome youÕre hoping for.


People - Top Tips - Managing under performance

What you need to know

Poor performance can result from poor leadership. It is the managerÕs responsibility to specify the results expected and the levels of skill and competence required. Performance also depends on the system of work. It is essential to analyse the causes of poor performance in terms of influences beyond the individualÕs control.

Under performance can be due to either conduct or capability issues. Before working out what course of action to take when managing performance it is important to understand which of these you are dealing with - so whatÕs the difference between the two?

Conduct - is concerned with what an individual will or wonÕt do. Misconduct means behaviour which is considered unreasonable and unacceptable; this can be either minor misconduct such as poor time keeping or gross misconduct such as theft.

All cases of misconduct are investigated and disciplinary action is taken if appropriate.

Capability - is concerned with what an individual can or canÕt do. This means that an individual either has or does not have the skill, motivation or experience to do their job properly.

When under performance occurs as a result of capability, as a line manager you must work with the individual so they have every opportunity to improve.

A disabled person is considered differently under the capability section. The social model of disability means that we look at what a disabled person can do and not at what they canÕt do as any gaps in ÔcapabilityÕ should be addressed through the reasonable adjustments provision.


People - Top Tips - Managing under performance

What you need to know

When managing capability and under performance you should begin by asking yourself the following questions:


To what extent does the individual know what is expected of them in their role? - As a line manager it is important that you set clear standards so that an individual is clear about what levels of performance are acceptable and unacceptable.


How reasonable are the tasks and targets that they have been set? - It is important for an individual to feel challenged and stimulated in their job role and the extent to which this applies varies from person to person. Targets must be realistic and an individual should feel a balance of support and challenge from their line manager.

If the targets are time limited then make sure that this is clear from the onset.




Has the individual been given sufficient training? - if you are asking an individual to perform tasks that they donÕt have prior experience of or training for it is unreasonable to expect a high standard of performance.


Is there another member of the team who can offer guidance/support? -

Having a point of contact to work with in the team can help to develop and motivate individuals thereby helping to drive their performance. Working in this way is particularly useful for new members joining a team and is a great way to role model what good looks like, which contributes to individuals understanding of what is expected of them.


What performance reviews have taken place? - Holding a regular review provides an opportunity to talk about performance, give feedback and set targets. If regular reviews are held an individual will be clear about the areas of their performance that they need to work on and have a plan in place to do so. Sometimes this conversation itself is enough to resolve any areas of under performance.


Are there external factors affecting the individuals performance? – Ill health and personal problems can affect performance at work even if not directly related to it.


Performance Management Tools

There are several tools you can use and actions you can take to drive performance and the tool that you use is dependent upon the performance issue.


Goal and objective setting meetings are vital if an individual is not clear about what is expected of them and/or how their role fits within and contributes to the overall team objectives.

This conversation could be as simple as talking through certain elements of the job role to bring it to life in terms of what good looks like and if you want to take a more formal approach then this conversation could result in an action plan containing SMART objectives which you can review in a few weeksÕ time.