A difficult conversation offers helpful guidance for team leaders faced with conflicting version of the truth, including the need to differentiate between intent and perspective, the importance of recognizing how inherent biases often blur understanding, and the value of fostering empathy through face-to-face communication.
I looked directly at the woman sitting across from me and stated flatly, “You will hear the unvarnished truth from me.” I proceeded to give Janet some very difficult feedback. She was recently transferred to be under my management and nobody had told her some hard truths about how she was perceived. I felt like I was practically berating her with negative comment after negative comment, and at the end of the conversation she thanked me, genuinely.
But this anecdote is not about what Janet learned during the conversation, or how to take critical feedback gracefully. The point is something quite different. It’s about how we, as project leaders, must try corral implicit biases during these types of difficult conversations.
A principle that I hold with highest regard as a manager is that truth is always in the middle. I told this talented and struggling woman one challenge after another that she would have to overcome — all the things people were saying about her, relationships Janet needed to repair, how she had to communicate
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