“Having Difficult Conversations”…..R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Having Difficult Conversations

“SUCCESS” is a beautiful thing…..it really is. After “Happiness” success is something that most of us strive for and the journey to that promise land is often times turbulent. Nope, this post is not meant to examine the virtues of “Success” however as you read further it does come into play when reviewing the interaction between a “Sales Leader” and “Salesperson” (this could also apply to a “Boss” and “Subordinate”).
I’ll admit one of the most difficult responsibilities of sales manager/director/VP is coaching and counseling the “Poor Performer”. At the beginning of this year we had a podcast with some notable sales leaders and top human resource professionals where we discussed the phenomenon that is “The Difficult Conversation”. One word consistently communicated throughout the conversation was “RESPECT”. All parties agreed if you have to let someone go or placed on a “PIP” (Performance Improvement Plan) the interaction between the sales leader and sales rep has to be built on mutual respect. I personally have been on both sides of the table having been a recipient of a difficult conversation and deliverer of a difficult conversation (if that makes sense…haha). Both scenarios aren’t very pleasant…and in my experiences some of them have been downright disrespectful. Now, having been in corporate America for the majority of my life and have read many books on “Coaching and Counseling”, I’ve come to the conclusion that the word “Respect” doesn’t get its due credit as the solution to most of our ills in society. Catch phrase like “Emotional Intelligence” which in itself has become a cottage industry funnels from “Respect” and is built on the principles of mutual respect. Naturally both parties go into the “Difficult Conversation” exhibiting the many behaviors you come to expect like “Offense”, “Defense”, “Withdrawn”, or “Apathetic” so just getting the conversation started productively can be difficult. Most people would agree that “The Initiator” of the difficult conversation has to set the tone of the meeting which takes experience, skill, and education because setting the tone sets the path at how the conversation progresses. If you have to let someone go I’ve always believed that that meeting shouldn’t be a surprise if “The Process” up to that point has been built on “Support”, “Accountability”, and of course “Respect”……..unfortunately this hasn’t been the case in many instances I’m sure many of you can personally attest to this.

Okay, let’s get “REAL” for a moment! I don’t care what they (“The Handling Difficult Conversations Experts”) say any conversation where you have to fire or place someone on “PIP” cannot start out positive. Years ago when I went through a series of developmental courses as a sales leader I can remember one class I participated in called “Dealing with the difficult Employee”, and they would tell you if you had to present a bad performance review to find a place that has heavy occupancy, somewhat open, and if needed have a colleague strategically placed out of site (hahaha!! If that’s starting out positive just think what precautions you would have to take if you were firing someone). Let me clearly state that yes it makes life a bit easier if the beginning of a difficult conversation starts out of the gate positive but let’s face it the only true objective at the beginning of such a conversation should be based on “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Coming back to the 1st sentence of this post (“SUCCESS” is a beautiful thing…..it really is.), all interactions whether they’re difficult or not as I’ve stated should be deep rooted in “Respect” because in the end we all want to be happy and successful in life and being a participant in a “Difficult Conversation” should NEVER have impact on that ultimate goal.

If you’re interested in learning about “The Process” and building a plan on “Having Difficult Conversations” for the sales leader my contact information is below along with our website.


Andre’ Harrell
AH2 & Beyond Consulting


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