|How to Address a Sensitive Topic With Your Team|
When you have a difficult problem or delicate issue to raise with your team, handle it with care. Here’s how:
- Request some time. Get the team’s attention by asking for some time to discuss an important issue. It can either be within an already scheduled meeting—“Can we take 20 minutes to talk about deadlines?”—or by scheduling one in the future.
- Describe your observations. Tell the rest of the team what you’re seeing. Be specific, and use concrete examples. Of course, you should avoid attacking anyone on a personal level. Stick to professional issues, situations or behaviors.
- Explain the impact. Point out the possible consequences of the problem to team members, detailing how the outcome affects other parties—customers, vendors, colleagues and your organization. Quantify the effects if you can.
- Ask for reactions. Don’t move into the problem-solving mode right away. Ask the team members to take a few moments, think about what you’ve said, and respond. Listen carefully. You may discover the situation isn’t as serious as you thought.
- Paraphrase and summarize. Repeat other team members’ comments in your own words to make sure you understand what they’re saying. Take notes to help keep your thoughts straight, then summarize the discussion. This will help all of you get a sense of where you are and what needs to happen next.
- Ask for help. Solicit suggestions and ideas for next steps from the rest of the team. If nobody volunteers right away, start by proposing action plans of your own. However, don’t push for an immediate solution if one isn’t forthcoming. Make sure that the team members agree on what’s happening and understand what they need to do as a result.
—Adapted from “Everyone a Leader” by H. Germann, K. Hurson and D. Russ-Eft (Wiley)