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Addressing Tough Topics at Work

When confronted with the need to address tough topics, small-business owners tend to choose from a small set of traditional approaches: plain talk, diplomacy, or avoidance. Some small-business owners exercise a one-size-fits-all style, while others use a more situational style, tailoring the traditional approach to the audience. Traditional approaches to tough topics can work—but they are less than optimal.

Despite the apprehension you feel when facing a tough topic, you know that in the end, an honest encounter is going to be required. Tough topics don’t just disappear on their own.

The most effective small-business owner sees a learning opportunity when a tough topic needs to be addressed. This means a commitment to direct, good-faith conversation with the sole purpose of resolving whatever is creating problems for you and your business.

The next time you need to address a tough topic relating to a high-priority issue, try to set the stage for the conversation by asking yourself how you can hold yourself and others to high standards of directness, honesty, and freedom from blame. Doing so will increase effectiveness and provide a powerful model for your organization to follow in the future.

David Peck


Leadership Unleashed

San Francisco

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