The Goal

VisitScotland was introducing a new talent management framework across its employee population. The framework required all managers to give feedback to individual team members about how their potential was perceived.

This feedback could be taken as negative by some of the individuals receiving it. Therefore managers needed to increase their skills in handling challenging and sensitive conversations. This was particularly important because the organisational culture was one where people were hesitant about tackling difficult topics.

The Solution

CommsMasters was invited to run a half-day workshop for the 75-strong management population. We had to create an impactful and engaging message that could be delivered in this short workshop; one that built managers’ confidence and competence in tackling these interactions.

We designed a programme that would quickly build in-depth understanding and practical skill. One of the key messages we wanted to get across was how to handle all the conversations well, because this would be one of the most effective ways to minimise the potential for any of them becoming ‘difficult’.

Topics covered included: how to structure and prepare for the conversation; understanding the unspoken subtext that can so easily derail discussions; recognising and managing emotional responses; and inflammatory statements and language to avoid.

The Results

In a survey carried out three months after the training:

  • 90% of managers reported that the conversations went well
  • 80% of managers noted an increase in their confidence when conducting the conversations
  • 80% agreed that they found the training useful in helping them handle the difficult discussions, while 72% felt significantly more able to deal with the especially difficult conversations
  • Over half of managers reported that the tools and techniques covered were useful in other areas of their leadership roles

The Client’s View

“This was the first time we worked with CommsMasters and it turned out to be a good decision. From our point-of-view it was of great importance to get this piece right, [in order to] support our managers with the skills of handling potentially delicate conversations.”
“CommsMasters did a good job of understanding the wider context, as well as the end-game we were after… the design of the solution was appropriate and it was delivered well by the CommsMasters team. A few months after the delivery of the workshops for all our managers, CommsMasters did an evaluation of effectiveness with a representative sample and the results have been good.”