As a leader or manager you can be sure that there will be difficult situations to deal with from time to time.  These difficult situations might include:

• Dealing with poor individual or team performance

• Trying to improve an organisation that is perceived to be failing

• A process that it is not working

• Staff or other resource shortages

• Adverse media coverage

So as a manager or leader what are the key tips for dealing with difficult situations?

Tip 1: Establish facts first

When difficult situations arise, it is all too easy to jump to solution mode too quickly.  While there may be a limited amount of times when fast action is absolutely necessary, your first step to successful resolution it to establish facts.  Remember that facts as opposed to hearsay or opinion are verifiable.

Tip 2: Ask lots of questions

Questions, especially the short powerful variety are a great way of getting to the core issue rather than all the detail that someone is trying to provide to you.  Think of it a bit like peeling an onion, each layer is getting you closer to the core.

Tip 3: Actively listen

There is little point in asking great questions if you are not actively listening to what is being said.  Resist the temptation to jump in before you have properly listened to the different points of view.

Tip 4: Avoid pre-judgement

We all, if we are honest will form some judgements immediately.  While these might be right at the end of the day, don’t let pre-judgement get in the way of establishing the real issues.

Tip 5: Act professionally

The challenge for you is to remain professional at all times.  A good test of this is to ask yourself how you would like to be treated if you were not the manager or leader but an aggrieved party.

Tip 6: Aim for win-win

While this is not always possible, you should aim to find solutions that don’t result in a feeling from one party that they have lost while another has won.  This might require some careful negotiation around what would constitute a good outcome for all those involved.

Tip 7: Remember there is no one size fits all approach

Each situation is different.  While there might be some common ground, remember there is unlikely to a one size fits all approach to difficult situations.   Adapt your approach depending on the situation.

Bottom Line – Handling difficult situations is just part and parcel of managing and leading.  So where do you need to focus your attention in terms of developing your competence?

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