“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”
Andy Stanley

Some topics are particularly thorny at work. Maybe you need to address your team’s lackluster sales performance. Or maybe you need to break the bad news about demotions or reorganizations. Engaging in these conversations one-on-one is tricky enough, but what if you need to address your entire group at once? Management consultant and executive coach, Liz Kislik, says it’s enough to stress out even the most experienced leaders.

If you could use some pointers on how to handle uncomfortable team meetings, read on. We share Kislik’s guidance in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Outline your topics. The first step to handling difficult team meetings is knowing what you want to cover. Instead of winging it, dig into the points you want to discuss. Contemplate whether your comments are written so that your team perceives them as kind and coming from a place of understanding, Kislik says

Predict how your team members may respond. When addressing challenging topics, remember that people will react differently. Some may want to analyze things out loud or ask for extra explanations, Kislik says, and others may bring questions to you after the meeting.

Rehearse. If you know you’re delivering bad news, your nerves may appear in your body language or tone. Kislik says it’s important to thoughtfully prepare for the meeting and rehearse what you want to say. When you practice, you can also learn to adjust your body language. Your team members pay attention to whether you sit, stand or lean across the table, so stay aware of your movements.

Be authentic. Kislik says it may not be appropriate to share certain information or how you’re really feeling, but you can still be your authentic, true self. Just gear your language and tone to the group’s best interests while keeping a calm, kind and energized demeanor.

Encourage discussion. During difficult conversations, make sure everyone has a chance to share their concerns or questions. Make it safe for everyone to speak, whether you invite your team members to raise questions in the moment or give them space to share feedback later. If some employees are commandeering the conversation, try saying something like, “Thank you for saying that. Now we’re going to move on to X” or “I know this is important to you, John, so we’ll let’s talk about it later when we can discuss in more detail.”

Begin and end the meeting well. This helps you build a sense of community. Welcome people to the meeting and wish them well when it’s over. Kislik recommends letting employees know that you care about them and that you’re there on their behalf, trying to make everything work as smoothly as possible.

It can be challenging engaging entire teams in difficult conversations. Consider the points above, from practicing what you want to say to anticipating how your team may respond, to help the discussion go as smoothly as possible.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Liz Kislik is a Harvard Business Review and Forbes contributor, management consultant and executive coach.