What’s the worst that could happen?

Good morning!

Many thanks to all the messages I’ve received in response to last week’s question about communicating clearly. Here is another installment from me, Phil McMillan from Heads Up, on some more thoughts and tips on how to handle those difficult conversations that are needed to drive improvement.

We’re going to address some of the points you raised in a new way after half-term. More about that in a couple of weeks!

For now I want to discuss one of the big fears I think most of us have – worrying about damaging a relationship by having a difficult conversation.

What’s the worst that can happen? To my regret, I can give you a personal example.

I wanted to give some words of caution to a friend over their use of language, as they occasionally used remarks that some would consider as possibly racist and I worried that they might cause offence to someone at their workplace or elsewhere.

The response I got was furious; how dare I tell someone what they can and can’t say and how condescending to think my friend didn’t know when and where to watch their language! I was told I would never be forgiven for my patronising, judgemental remarks!

Oh dear! But what lesson should I learn from this? Should I never try to raise a concern with a friend or colleague again?

No, I was right to raise a concern – what I realised though was how I had gone about it was all wrong. My timing of the conversation was terrible, the language I used was unfortunate and I hadn’t been very clear about what my primary concern was (I wasn’t trying to be judgemental, I just didn’t want them to get in to trouble).
One failure should be put in context. Most of the time when I have these conversations, the result is that my relationship with that person has become stronger. Think about a time when a close friend, family member or colleague has given you some feedback that was painful to hear. Whilst it probably wasn’t an enjoyable experience, later you were probably very grateful for that person saving you from future grief. You trust and value that person more.

By building stronger relationships with your team and colleagues, the more you can advance together towards building your high performing school.

What I would like to hear from you this week is your response to this two-part question:

Think of the worst difficult conversation you’ve ever had with a member of your team. What do you think you think caused it to go so badly and what would you differently in future?

All replies will be gratefully and confidentially received! Hit reply, let me know and we’ll do our best to help!
Until next time have a great week and don’t worry about making mistakes, think about how to fail better!
Best wishes,