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The Power of Us—An IT Professional’s Perspective on Handling Difficult Conversations

The Power of Us - An IT Professional’s Perspective on Handling Difficult Conversations

By TOM NORTHRUP

Overcoming difficult conversations is never easy or done lightly. There comes a time in every profession when a conversation turns from rainbows to muddy puddles. In my experience, this happens frequently during IT projects. How we handle ourselves when this happens, may impact our day and even our careers. This article will explore how to navigate these difficult conversations. It will help you realize that the same rain that brings the rainbows created your muddy puddles. 

Early in my career, I have seen individuals over-commit and promise the unknown, which makes the client happy upon hearing, yet sad upon seeing. When a client is disappointed that something does not meet their expectations, that is an indicator that a difficult conversation is about to happen. As a consultant, it is important to recognize when the conversational tone has shifted. Pro tip – now is a good time to have your notes available and ready to review! 

A great leader always touted “high performers take notes.” I couldn’t agree more. There is only so much the human brain can contain there is no way to remember every detail unless you are taking detailed notes. Not just any notes, I like to jot down the person who was speaking while I take them. As a consultant, it is our responsibility to have an answer, and great notes are one way to elevate your game.  

Now that the difficult conversation has begun here are some tips for surviving: 

Be on the same side 

     – Remind everyone that a successful project is everyone’s goal 

     – Take a step back and see things from their perspective 

Become an “Us”  

     – One-sided conversations will go nowhere when collaboration is the end goal 

     – Show you are creating value for the business, together. 

     – Get curious and solve the problem. 

     – Don’t get personal! 

     – Keep the conversation focuses on solving the problem not finding blame. Save the blame for later.  

Take a breath 

     – Research shows that a deep breath does good for the body. Take a second to collect your thoughts and set aside your emotions.  

Validation 

     – Explain what you have heard the client express as a concern. 

Acknowledge that you understand where they are coming from 

     – Don’t fake this and be calm. 

     – Remind them you are willing to work together to solve this. 

No means NO 

     – If you know something can’t be done, then admit it and be honest 

Nohaving an answer is OK 

     – It is perfectly acceptable to not have the complete answer or solution the client is looking for right then and there.  

     – Walk away, take a break and seek counsel. 

 

There is so much here that could be expanded on, reach out to me to learn more.  

As we grow with a business over time and become trusted advisors, it is natural to have disputes. I remember in my early years of consulting coming across these moments and not knowing what to do or how to handle myself. I used to see these conflicts as negative, but now I realize how important these types of conversations are for healthy partnerships. A healthy partnership works together to solve and overcome issues. When we stop resisting one another and stand shoulder to shoulder, we will hit our targets.  

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