Difficult Conversations – and the 5 minute Difficult Conversations Plan

One of the areas that leaders at all levels and all industries struggle with is difficult conversations. It is easy to tell people they are doing a good job, it is harder to do the opposite – particularly in a productive way.

As a leader in education you will have multiple difficult conversations every day; these could be with:

  • Pupils
  • Parents
  • Co-Workers that you line manage
  • Your Boss
  • Co-Workers outside your management structure
  • External providers

How these conversations are handled is extremely important; and are frequently seen as the elephant in the room. Something that you rather not do – particularly with colleagues. We tend to find it easier to have difficult conversations with pupil’s rather than adults. However I would argue that sometimes the conversations with children could also be better planned to increase their effectiveness.


The language used is important; as what may appear a throwaway comment from your point of view can derail the conversation. I remember having a conversation with a colleague that I managed who had been accused of by another colleague of bullying. I used the word bullying with the colleague and this meant that the colleague felt personally attacked – had this conversation been rephrased it might have been more productive.

One way to consider the use of language in such conversations is the acronym T.H.I.N.K:







Difficult conversations require planning, not scripting. A plan is important so that you can make sure the key points are covered; using a script is not

Concluding Thoughts

It can be difficult to say somethings – however by not saying anything you are doing no favours to anyone. Furthermore, if you are finding it difficult to say something to someone else, or your afraid of offending them, say so. Being authentic and open makes a conversation easy to say and easier to here. Authenticity is powerful.

To help structure difficult conversations I have put together the five minute difficult conversation plan: