7 Key Tips for Dealing with Difficult Situations

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?

About the Author Duncan Brodie

In summary since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 6,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them achieve career success and become better leaders and presenters. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

Leave a Comment:

Paul Hayward says 7 September 2009

So, if you are a leader and you find you are dealing with poor performance, or an organisation that’s failing, or a process that’s not working, or a shortage of resources, or adverse media coverage – then I have to ask – what have you been doing, ot not doing, to get into such a state in the first place?

Before you rush off in a misplaced effort to fix everyone else, perhaps your examination of the entrails should start closer to home?

Duncan Brodie says 7 September 2009

Hi Paul

Thanks for your post and perspectives.

I am sure that even the best run organisations face challenges from time to time and it is better to be as prepared as you can than not in my view.


Helmine Liebl says 22 April 2010

Hey, thanks a lot for the tip. extremely helpful. this should be significantly more significant inside the longer term, i assume. Helmine Liebl

Kamala Kirushna says 7 November 2011

Thanks for posting the 7 tips

Thangam says 11 April 2013

Thanks for the tips

Natalie says 24 February 2014

Great advice! I actually recently wrote an article about dealing with difficult situations using the Resilience Formula. If you’re interested feel free to check it out here https://www.nourish-mindbody.net/?p=111

Janet Ali Khan says 13 October 2015

Thank you for sharing these helpful tips…so simple to understand and so practical to apply in day-to-day living.

Sai Krupa says 15 January 2019

It was excellent.Great learning for a new faculty who handles youth development modules.Thank you Sir

Michael Anthony Lopez says 9 June 2019

All these are very helpful and I greatly appreciate that business communication

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