No one enjoys having a difficult discussion with someone (at least no one we’ve ever met). The reality is however that they are an unavoidable part of leadership.

There isn’t a magic bullet to make a difficult conversation easy, but there are things you can do which increase the chances of a positive outcome.

Here are our top tips to help you navigate these situations effectively:


Before you dive in, take some time to figure out what you want to say. Understand the issue, think about their possible reactions, and know your stuff. This will help keep the conversation on track.

Be Honest

Be respectful and conscious of what you are saying, but let them know what the problem is, and don’t beat around the bush. Use "I" statements to share your point of view without making them feel attacked. So instead of "You're always late", try "I've noticed you've been coming in late lately."


Let them have their say, and really listen to what they're telling you. Show you understand and care about their feelings - it'll make them feel valued.

Sometimes it can help to start a discussion about where things have not gone well to even ask them what their thoughts are before your share yours. They may already know there is a problem and that will make the discussion a lot easier.

Focus on moving forwards

Where things have not gone well, look at what is needed to move forwards. The point isn’t to hit them over the head with what's not going well, it’s to make things better for the future.

Get them involved in coming up with solutions – this can make them more likely to stick with it. Keep your eyes on the future, not what's happened in the past.

Keep it factual and actionable

“Bob thought you were rude” is not a fact, that’s how Bob feels. You need to think about what happened, not what someone’s interpretation of things were. This is why a statement like “you lack gravitas” is so irritating as in reality it means nothing. You need to objectively set out what did or didn’t happen, what has made someone feel like someone was “rude”, opinion isn’t feedback, and it can’t be actioned.


Don't just have the chat and forget about it. Set up a time to catch up again and see how things are going. This helps keep everyone accountable and shows you're there to help.

Remember, the point of these conversations isn't to give someone a telling-off.

Go in wanting to understand and help, and you will have the power to turn a tough chat into a positive outcome for your team.   Showing someone, you value them and that you are there to support their growth will matter.