The ability for you to effectively engage in difficult conversations may not be easy or fun, but it is crucial for you to be able successfully navigate every difficult conversation that comes your way. As an administrator who is able to successfully confront and handle conflict is key to running a great school.
1. Get the facts. Whatever the situation student discipline, parent complaint, staff issue make sure you get the facts before the conversation and make sure the person reporting it is coming to you with first hand information. Seek out anyone else who could be involved in the situation if necessary to gain more knowledge about the incident. Having good situational awareness and knowing your personal/students/parents is key to being able to identify how reliable the information is.
2. Put yourself in their shoes. After getting the story ask yourself why that person would have done something like that. Is this the first time something like this has happened? Are their other underlying issues going on that caused this action? What is the rapport between the two parties? Who has a good connection/insight on the person that you could potentially ask if needed.
3. Walk through the conversation. Be prepared to have a couple of options for discipline thought out sitting in your pocket depending on how the conversation goes and what you determine after discussing it with them. Could be anything from a misunderstanding (no discipline), warning, detention, suspension, termination, or write up. Anticipate the worst case scenario of the person yelling and cursing at you, destroying property, or slamming doors and be prepared to respond and not be rattled. Be prepared to stop them immediately and tell them that they have now escalated the situation and it's now in their best interest to stop talking and take a minute to calm down.
4. Stay calm and execute the conversation. Be prompt and get to the point right away. Tell them why they are their and what they are accused of. Pretend that their parent (or superintendent) is sitting in the room with you and treat them how you would want to be treated. Stick to the facts, don't add any bias or interpretation to the conversation let them speak for themselves. After they present their case then determine what is appropriate discipline (if any), deliver the consequence, and then end the conversation.
5. Document, document, document. Believe it or not after having a difficult conversation stories sometimes change and words can be twisted. It might be a small issue, but depending on the circumstances of the situation and person(s) involved it could escalate into a bigger problem quickly. Make sure to document the conversation and what was said and keep those notes on file. It's much easier to go back and reference your notes if questioned by the school board or the superintendent.
Blog written by Andy Jordan