Handling difficult conversations as a project manager

As a project manager, no matter what project management training you have completed it is likely that you are going to have a number of difficult conversations. After all, there are going to be moments whereby you are unable to meet the client’s demands or you need to talk with your team members regarding their efforts. There is a fine line between being blunt enough to get your point across and being professionally kind, which is why you need to approach these conversations carefully. Read on to discover some to tips to assist you.

Don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to these conversations

It is important to acknowledge whom you are talking to when dealing with difficult conversations. After all, it is likely that your conversation is going to be very different when talking with an established member of your project team when compared with a project management apprentice. You need to think about whom you are talking to, both in regards to their role and their personality, and tailor the way you approach the conversation accordingly.

Structure difficult conversations well

You will feel more confident during difficult chats if you have structured them properly. This will help to prevent you from going off on a tangent. Your framework doesn’t need to be advanced. In fact, simple frameworks tend to work better. For example, a framework to follow could be: begin by saying what you have observed, how it is having an impact on the project, budget, and/or team, why you want to talk to this individual specifically about it, ask for their input, and then come to a conclusion. It is as simple as that.

Decide who should have the conversation

Just because you are the project manager does not mean that you need to have the conversation. It may be that there is someone else who is better suited to it. Before you steamroll in, stop and think about whether there is someone else who is going to be better suited to having the conversation. In terms of being better suited, this means someone who is more likely to get the desired result.

Choose the right environment

Not only is it important to choose the best person for the conversation, but you also need to choose the right environment. This is another critical element. Pick an environment that is conducive to an honest and open discussion. The best thing to do is think about if the shoe was on the other foot. If so, where would you like someone to have a difficult conversation about you? It is highly unlikely you are going to want to have it anywhere that is remotely public or in earshot of someone else.

Start with your end game

Although it may not sound right, it is better to start at the end when having a difficult conversation. What do you want to get out of the conversation? Why are you having the conversation? Deal with the important questions first.

So there you have it: from choosing the right environment to tailoring your conversation based on who you are speaking with, some top tips to assist you as a project manager whenever you need to have a difficult conversation with someone.