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Tough conversations are everywhere right now – from retrenchments to salary reductions, team accountability sessions and businesses being required to adapt quickly. Leaders are required to engage differently, to lead actively and to ensure that their full team is onboard at all times. 

Given the necessity of this skill, we thought we would share these techniques for Tough Conversations in the hope of making these conversations easier and more effective for you. 

First, as the leader and holder of the conversation, set yourself up for success. 

The DOs: 
  • Prepare for the conversation in advance. Where possible, allow the other party time to prepare too. 
  • Be thoughtful about timing, context, tone and audience
  • Be clear and specific. Clarity ensures that you’re addressing the core issue and reach a useful outcome. 
  • Watch out for and recognise your tendencies to fight, flight or freeze. 
  • Hold true to what really matters: is being right what matters, or the relationship going forward. 
  • Keep your dignity, regardless. There is nothing professional about shouting or bad behaviour. 
The DONT’s: 
  • Have the conversation on a whim.
  • Be tired, hungry or in a bad mood.
  • Allow yourself to get agitated. Rather stop and calm down before taking the conversation forward. 
  • Try to score points or gain advantage from a tough conversation.
  • Attack character, gender, race, age, education etc

Second, follow a clear 5-step process for your tough conversation. This is useful, both for preparation and for during the conversation. 

  1. State your Intention for the conversation.
  2. Explain the issue. 
  3. Highlight the consequences of not making a change/finding a solution.
  4. Invite a response. 
  5. Discuss, share, agree on next steps. 

The quality of your conversations – tough conversations included – has an impact on every aspect of your organisation: the thinking, relationships, alignment, and team engagement. Conversations matter and we hope these tips help make the tough ones a little easier to navigate.

When tough conversations are handled correctly the entire organisation benefits. This is a skill that can be learned.

Talk to us about how to get this right for you and your people. Connect with us at 

Angela Deutschmann

Angela Deutschmann

Angela Deutschmann is a Senior Associate and Head of the Enneagram Practice at Lockstep. Angela focuses on co-facilitating leadership retreats, coaching senior clients and contributing to the personal development aspects of the leadership programmes. Having left the corporate world at age 29, Angela devoted herself to building a practice of intimate and cutting-edge personal development. She has thirteen years’ experience of being an intuitive coach, workshop leader, facilitator, and speaker – with the intent on building bridges between doing and being; performance and presence.