Tough Talks Book Series

Franchise Tough Talks®: When Customers Overhear Personal Conversations

Difficult conversations are a part of life for franchise owners. As for all businesses, communicating with employees is essential.  When that employee is presenting a face to your customer that isn’t good for your franchise business, it’s imperative that you deal with it immediately.  But do you always know about bad behavior of your employees?

I recently went through a drive-in fast food restaurant after my yoga class one evening. After I placed my order at the franchise, well known for it’s consistent quality around the world, I drove up to the window to pay. Behind the cashier was a small office, with the door open. An adult women, whom I assume was the night time manager, was on the phone. I overheard her conversation, …

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Conflict resolution: research on your brain

I’ve long been fascinated about how our brains impact, or are impacted by, conflicts and difficult discussions. While doing my research for Tough Talks® in Tough Times, I tracked down information about the physiology of emotions and what role they played in giving and receiving bad news in the workplace. Each person I interviewed described the same physical reactions to receiving bad news: pounding hearts, upset stomachs, dizziness, dry mouths. And I wanted to know why.

Here’s the reason:  When a person hears bad news, no matter what else they were previously thinking at the time, their minds and bodies immediately perceive a threat of some kind.  And when that happens, their sympathetic nervous systems are activated and release a rush of 1100 …

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Saying goodbye to Peyton: a very difficult conversation

Did you catch last Wednesday’s announcement that Peyton Manning’s contract with the Indianapolis Colts was not renewed? What a heart breaker of a difficult conversation. But what a great lesson on how to deliver bad news.

Colts owner Jim Irsay and fellow Colts executives had made the very difficult decision to let Peyton go and become a free agent. Peyton Manning wasn’t surprised. He knew that his health was still an unknown, his desire to play professional football was still strong, and his wonderful team was being dismantled to be rebuilt from the ground up…without him. He knew it was in the best interests of all parties for him to move on.

Both men appeared at the news conference together at the podium. They spoke …

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A surprising benefit to having difficult conversations

Most people do not like delivering bad news. Surprisingly, it is a skill that is valued in today’s economy. And it adds to your own marketability.  Being able to handle difficult subjects and conversations can differentiate you and keep you moving your own career forward.

Karl Ahlrichs, human resource consultant at Gregory & Appel, calls this “a core skill that will keep you on board longer than someone who doesn’t have this ability.  Not only will your division perform better,” adds Karl, “the organization will recognize managers who have this skill.”

CEOs in all sectors are concerned with performance management. The ability to keep, motivate, and engage good employees is essential. If you have a good track record in this area, you stand a much …

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One of the Toughest–Conversations about End of Life

Discussions about death are always difficult.  A good friend of mine is having crucial conversations with hospital personnel about her elderly mother, who has had numerous strokes in the last several months. It was mentioned that her mother might need a feeding tube. My friend was unaware of the ramifications this action would have on “Do not resuscitate” (DNR) orders that her mother had previously signed. Since her mother lived out of state, but was admitted to a local hospital here, the hospital did not have the DNR order.

Laws may vary in each state. And this is NOT a website offering legal advise. You must see an attorney for that information. This website is about the human side of difficult conversations.

I am aware …

Posted by Jean Palmer Heck in Bad news from a doctor, Difficult conversations, Personal conversations. Leave a Comment

Discussing a very personal issue

A reader of Tough Talks® in Tough Times: What Bosses Need to Know to Deliver Bad News, Motivate Employees & Stay Sane approached me recently and asked if she could get my communication advice on a very personal issue. Cara (not her real name) needed to have a conversation about the delicate subject of incontinence with her mother-in-law. At an upcoming family event, Cara was worried that her mother-in-law would have an accident, making it embarrassing for everyone. “We have to talk about it,” said the 50 year old professional woman, “but we don’t know how to discuss this particular subject.”

“My husband and I are concerned that she won’t visit the restroom often enough,” she explained. “How do we handle this difficult conversation? …

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When your ToughTalk is a Public Speech

Difficult conversations take many forms. They can be one-on-one discussions about work issues or personal relationships. They can also be very public conversations that are in the form of a speech or presentation. The content itself may not be fear-inducing, but the act of getting up in front of a crowd may feel overwhelming.

Here is a video about overcoming the fear of public speaking. In it, I offer five proven techniques to make these kinds of tough talks even easier.

For more hints on speaking in public, Powerful Presentation Road Maps is now available as an ebook. Here’s a brief summary and information on how you can get a copy of it.…

Posted by Jean Palmer Heck in Difficult conversations, Public speaking. Leave a Comment

Have a Tough Talk or Take a Long Walk?

Many difficult conversations are put on the back burner because people hope that the situation will resolve itself.  In many cases, they opt for “taking a long walk” rather than having Tough Talks® and solving the situation.

I recently spoke to the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies Leadership Forum on the subject.  This video is a segment from it in which I outline some of the difficult conversations that the participants face.  I asked them if they would  have the Tough Talk™ ?  Or would they opt to take a long walk?

They might have walked before the session.  But after it, they had a system, the CHECK® system to use.

Here’s the video.  What would you do if you were in …

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Biggest Mistakes with Difficult Conversations

Having a difficult conversation with someone, at work or at home, creates much anxiety for everyone involved.   What are some of the mistakes that people commonly make?  Here’s a video from a recent speech I gave to the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies at its Leadership Forum in Omaha.  See if you came up with the same answers.…

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When Talking Money is a Difficult Discussion

One of the most common subjects that cause discomfort for many people are discussions involving money. Even with the instant, open communications that occur about a variety of topics, finances are still taboo for many.  If you are a business person who offers a service for which you charge a fee, what happens when your client thinks it is too high, and gives you push back?  It becomes a difficult discussion that you can’t put off.

Lois Creamer, a small business consultant and coach, whose company is called Book More Business, has a good way to handle the tough topic.  She writes:

I suggest you talk about your fees as if they were a commodity. If anyone says your fee is to high, I suggest

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When Holiday Conversations Become Difficult

Does the holiday season bring memories of controversial conversations, family feuds, or remorseful repasts? Is the dinnertime chat more heated than the candied yams? Do you want to stuff a sock in your sibling’s teeth instead of  sausage and sage in your turkey?   If so, you might want to consider studying the CHECK® system for handling difficult discussions before you head to Grandma’s house.

Expectations are high during the season.  We all want  a Norman Rockwell kind of holiday. But  too much togetherness can bring out the worst in many people. Emotions run high and are often uncontrolled.

The CHECK® system is a 5 step system for handling difficult discussions.  (And many discussions become difficult during the holidays.) The third step is the …

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Difficult Conversations are Never Far Away

Question: What’s a universal truth about difficult conversations?   Answer: The anxiety beforehand is as harrowing as the event itself.

Yesterday I was doing a book signing of Tough Talks in Tough Times and I received visual confirmation of my research findings. I asked people to recall a difficult situation they have had or will be having in the future.  As soon as I mentioned the face that the mere act of thinking about the discussion brings on as much anxiety as the actual discussion does, the heads began nodding. In fact, I don’t think there was anyone in the room who didn’t respond that way.

Before your next difficult conversation, you might want to look at this short video. It briefly explains what happens when …

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Etiquette Tips for Teleseminars

For many of us in the business world, teleseminars and webinars have become  an integral part of communicating with peers, bosses, clients, customers and employees.  They can be tricky especially if there are more than 3 people on the call.

Because they are another outlet for you to be in front of people, how you come across on them impacts your professional image. Jan Dwyer Bang, president of Boundless Results, a Seattle-based training and consulting firm, offer these etiquette suggestions, for the times when you are a participant in a group teleseminar.

  1. Turn off the “call waiting” feature of your phone during the call.  For most phones, simply dialing *70 will allow you to disconnect this feature momentarily.
  2. Use the mute feature on your

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When You Dread Giving Speeches

It’s no surprise that surveys over the years show that one of the greatest fears people have is getting up in front of a group to give a speech. It ranks up there, if not above, snakes and death. Ever since my father encouraged me to try out for my high school speech team, I’ve been studying the art and science of giving speeches. The newest addition to the Tough Talk series of books and learning resources addresses that issue.

Powerful Presentation Road Maps is now available as an ebook. Here’s a brief summary and information on how you can get a copy of it.…

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Cool Research on Motivating People

Is money the ultimate motivator when it comes to work productivity? New research shows that money as a motivator works when the tasks are simple. But when cognitive skills are at play, autonomy, skill mastery and a sense of purpose are the three factors that lead to better productivity. Watch an innovative video about the subject by Dan Pink.

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Motivating Employees

Credible leaders know how to tap into the hearts and minds of their employees.  That involves constant communication.  Sometimes those discussions are friendly; other times, they are tough talks about issues and circumstances that weigh heavily on all involved.

Even though employment statistics seem to be improving, times are still tough. Moving employees forward during these times is the result of a proper balance of realistic expectations, inspiring goals, and … as I always preach…constant communication.

People want to be part of a cause bigger than themselves.  If they can find that in the workplace, they will be more engaged in the company’s mission. That’s your job as boss to make sure they understand the cause.…

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Avoiding a Tough Talk at Work?

Are you facing a difficult conversation at work?  Are you putting it off, hoping the situation will solve itself?   That’s not a good management strategy.   Here are 4  problems I’ve identified that commonly occur when tough talks are avoided:

  1. In the absence of information, rumors will always fill the vacuum.
  2. Doubts about the economy turn into fears; fears, into rumors; rumors, into mental paralysis; mental paralysis, into lost productivity.
  3. Resentments can build when tough talks are put on hold.
  4. The person who must deliver the tough talk builds an emotional barrier, which does not help anyone in the long run.

If you are facing a difficult conversation, begin to get clarity about it. Figure out what you want to accomplish, think through all your options, …

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A Performance Review for George Clooney

See this blog post as a prezi video.

George Clooney got a dose of bad news the other night. And he got it in front of more than 40 million people who tuned in to watch the Oscars. Nominated for ‘best actor’ for his performance as a consultant who fires people in “Up in the Air,” he lost to Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart.”

I thought his performance review was ironic, in light of the character he played.  It was his character’s job to deliver bad news for bosses who were too chicken to do it themselves. He’d give the bad news, pack his bags, and go on with his life, seemingly unaffected.

Granted, Clooney is an actor whom we want to watch work. I …

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Bad News in the Elevator

I just visited my ob/gyn for a regular check up. As I was leaving and getting on the elevator, a young couple came out of the office, fighting back tears. Their grim faces said it all: they had just received bad news. My guess was that they had already had a lengthy discussion with the physician, had already spilled many tears, and were on their way home or back to work.

It broke my heart  to be a ‘visitor’ of their pain–even for the brief 30 second trip. They were so evidently stunned, shaken and sad as a result of their tough talk. I honored them with silence during the ride.  When the elevator reached the ground floor, I sent a silent prayer their way, …

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Oscar Nominated Movies Focus on Firing People

It seems like Hollywood has been following the same theme I have this past year–researching and creating works that focus on tough talks.  As I wrote in a previous blog, and in several op-ed pieces, “Up in the Air” with George Clooney (both Clooney and the movie are Oscar-nominated) focuses on the tough talks that accompany job losses. He was a hatchet man who flew all over the country delivering the bad news.

I just saw a clip from another movie that involves difficult conversations–“The Messenger,” starring Woody Harrelson (Oscar nominated) and Ben Foster.  “The Messenger” focuses on what would be my worst nightmare–notification of a the death of a loved one in the armed forces.  Having a son who has returned safely from 2 …

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