Difficult Conversations – Executive Challenges Town Hall

Difficult Conversations

Sooner or later we all end up having to have a difficult conversation with a peer or key employee. While they are rarely easy, handled well, these can be some of the most productive conversations had in the organization. Chris Reese, Judy Harris, Martha Kanaday, and Angela Jergler of Cirrus Business Group share several things you can do to protect yourself and the organization.

Intention Without Action is a Daydream

We often talk about being intentional about business change yet so many times we see businesses create plans with the best of intentions and see little or no implementation.  So what is it to be intentional?



an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.

the end or object intended; purpose.


purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct: a bungler with good intentions.

purpose or attitude with respect to marriage: Our friends are beginning to ask what our intentions are.


Intention is what we set out to do; it is not the completed goal.  The completion of the goal is in the intentional actions taken and the assessment of the results.


We have seen the leadership in several companies go on retreat, set the course for change and come back all charged up about the new direction of the company.  Somehow back at the office these intentions are not clearly communicated to the entire company and over time not fully carried out.  Then sets in the frustration of not achieving the desired goals and change.


Intentional leadership is hard work and it takes time.  It is setting the course and always having an eye on the water, intentionally watching for the need for course corrections.  Change is not easy to implement nor is it easy to maintain until the changes become the new habits. The intentional leader is watching for the bad habits to return and takes immediate action when that is observed.


Setting the new course and following it also needs to include celebration!  Find ways to celebrate the small successes along the way.  Celebration raises the positive vibrations in the company and lets the energy flow even better.


Be the change you seek—intentionally!


Coach Judi Harris, MBA  

Executive Coach, Cirrus Business Group

June, 2014

The Coaching Conversation

There are many things to consider in the area of performance management and one of the considerations is what method to use. One method is to use the coaching approach based on the model developed by Corporate Coach U (CCU). This method can be used to take the under performer to satisfactory or above, and it can be used to take the good performer to great. It is a very effective method for developing your “A” players.

When coaching through the gap from the current reality to the desired goal there are four essential skills used:
1. Contextual Listening ©
2. Discovery Questioning ©
3. Messaging
4. Acknowledging

Step 1. Focus

Through a series of discovery questions the focus of the current reality is established, such as:
–What would you like to get from this conversation?
–What feels most urgent right now?
–What do you need most to move forward?

During this step the desired goal is identified and made clear.

Step 2. Discover Possibilities

–Looking at this goal, what is the best that could happen?
–If you knew you could not fail, what would you do first—right now?
–What other outcomes might you achieve?
–What other possibilities can you see that can move you forward?

During this step look at all possibilities, even the unusual ones.

Step 3. Plan the action

–Choose the most compelling action steps.
–Decide where to start.
–Discover what is needed for success
–Decide on who might be needed to assist
–Be clear on how these action steps will lead to achieving the goal
–Review the plan to make sure all of the actions steps are there and in the right sequence

The coach sends a clear message that action needs to be taken and helps to develop the action plan

Step 4. Remove the barriers

–What might keep you from succeeding?
–What is missing?
–Do you have all the resources that are needed?
–What roadblocks might come up that need to be overcome?
–Who can you communicate with to remove these roadblocks?

The idea here is to acknowledge there will be barriers and to identify as many as can be and remove them. The idea here is to make them non-issues before the plan is even put into action. This step addresses the concerns of the person being coached.

Step 5. Recap

–Tell me what you are going to do and by when
–What are you taking away from this conversation?
–What will you have achieved by our next meeting?
–How would you like me to hold you accountable for your commitments?
–What date and time works best for our next meeting?

The recap ensures clarity of the issue and implementation of the action plan and the system for accountability. It is important that the person being coached is clear on the steps and the goal. Any lack of clarity is cleaned up at this step.

The Coaching Conversation Model © does not work in or apply in every situation. When it does it is a very effective method for achieving the desired results—and often more!

Want to learn how to do it? Give us a call!

Judith Harris, MBA 2014
Executive Coach