4 Steps for Conducting Effective Leadership Conversations

This is a career success blog.  Most of my posts are aimed at helping you get ahead in your life and career.  If I’m doing my job well, pretty soon you’ll get promoted.  When this happens, you’ll need to be able to have some tough conversations with the people you lead.

This article provides you with solid common sense advice on how to start some potentially difficult conversations…


These are ten great conversation starters that should be in your leadership took kit.

However, besides being good at starting conversations, effective leaders also know how to get the most out of the conversations they have with people they lead.  A while back I developed a four step model for conducting effective leadership conversations.  I have used it with leaders in the Fortune 500 companies with whom I consult as well as with leaders in smaller entrepreneurial companies.  My MBA students at the University of Denver say that it is one of the most helpful parts of my Managing Human Capital course.

Here are my four steps for conducting effective leadership conversations….

All effective leadership conversations can be broken into four steps: 1) Opening, 2) Information Sharing, 3) Decision, 4) Closing.  No matter what type of conversation you are conducting, you’ll need to cover each of these four steps.  If you learn and master the skills and techniques associated with each step, you’ll be able to apply this model to any leadership conversation.  Let’s take a look at them in some detail.


You lay the groundwork for your conversation in this step.  It’s important to tell the other person why you want to have the conversation and why the conversation is important.

Information Sharing

This is the step in which you’ll want to use the questions in the article.  Questions are the best way to get all of the information pertaining to the subject at hand out on the table.  Ask the other person for his or her thoughts.  Listen attentively, asking questions to clarify anything you don’t understand.  Paraphrase what the other person says to make sure that he or she knows you understand.  Then, add your thoughts.  It’s important to let the other person go first in this step.  That’s why questions are so powerful.  You let the other person take the lead in getting all of the information on the table.  End this step by reviewing and summarizing what you’ve just discussed.


Begin this step by asking questions too.  Now that you both have a complete understanding of the situation, ask the other person for his or her ideas on how to proceed.  Listen, ask questions and paraphrase.  Look for suggestions that you can adopt, even if they are just the glimmer of a useful idea.  Build on the other person’s suggestions.  You want the him or her to understand that you are trying to use them.  Finally, add ideas of your own.  Then jointly decide on a course of action, using the other person’s ideas wherever you can.  Once you are in agreement on how you will proceed, determine and assign responsibilities.  Be clear on what you will do and what you are expecting of the other individual.


Just as it’s important to begin on a positive note, it’s just as important to end that way.  Here’s what to do.  Summarize the conversation and the agreements you reached.  Then set a follow up date to review progress.  A firm follow up date lets the other person know that you are serious about the topic of the conversation.  Finally, express your confidence in the other person’s ability to handle the situation you’ve discussed.

Leadership conversations can be difficult — especially for new leaders.  But if you learn and apply these simple steps, you’ll approach every leadership conversation with the confidence necessary to be successful.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve.  Now I’m going one step further.  I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success.  And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free.  Just go to  www.BudBilanich.com/join  to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals.  I hope to see you there.

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