Handling challenging conversations

Virtual and classroom delivery available

Facing difficult conversations can be nerve-wracking, espcially when problems have to be brought out into the open or you expect an angry, defensive or emotional reaction. This practical course provides the tools and processes to manage these challenging converastions with confidence and professionalism.

Adapted to your group's needs and delivered at your offices or as live virtual training

About the course

Course overview

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The ability to have open, honest and productive conversations with colleagues is a vital skill for all managers. But sometimes, talking about sensitive topics like under-productivity or issues around behaviour, attitude or money can be difficult.

For some managers, their perceived lack of sensitivity can trigger emotional or defensive reactions in colleagues that can sour relationships and be counterproductive in terms of performance. Others struggle with conflict and avoid addressing important issues head-on.

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This course has been devised to help make these conversations less difficult and more constructive, helping managers build the skills to discuss difficult topics honestly, openly and sensitively.

During the day, delegates will learn both a structured process that takes the guesswork out of how to approach difficult conversations, and will also have opportunities to build their confidence through practical role-plays in a safe and supportive environment.


Key details

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After attending this course delegates will be able to:

  • Set clear expectations, including knowing when to say ‘no’
  • Handle difficult attitudes
  • Select the appropriate approach when providing difficult feedback
  • Identify how to remain assertive and in ‘adult’ mode
  • Spot what happens when their buttons are pressed and how to manage this
  • Increase their emotional intelligence
  • Ensure their conversations are constructive
  • Manage resistance from the other person calmly
  • Handle tricky conversations on the phone and face-to-face

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1) Different types of challenging conversations

  • What makes some conversations challenging?
  • Identifying the different types of tricky conversations and how to manage each type
  • Dealing with difficult attitudes
  • Identifying ‘what people do’ rather than ‘what people are’
  • The differences in challenging conversations with employees and colleagues


2) Communication skills during challenging conversations

  • The role of words, tone and body language
  • Responding to what’s not being said
  • Identify your own trigger points and how to manage these
  • How to gain the other person’s attention / buy-in


3) Handling challenging emotions

  • Five communication styles and which ones are used in different situations
  • Emotional intelligence –being aware of how you react under pressure and being able to modify your behaviour accordingly
  • Using a solution-focussed approach


4) Preparing for your own challenging conversation

  • Questions to consider before you have a challenging conversation
  • Anticipating the other person’s responses and how you’ll respond
  • How to achieve a successful outcome
  • Handling tricky conversations on the phone


5) Using the skills

  • Skills practice using work-based scenarios
  • Extended Action planning – preparing for your own tricky conversation


[restab title=”Target audience”]This course is ideal for managers and team leaders responsible for the performance and conduct of staff, and who want to improve their ability and confidence delivering difficult news of feedback.

Course leader

Kate Jennings is a highly experienced leadership development consultant and coach, as well as a qualified counsellor. She has facilitated large-scale leadership and communications programmes for a wide range of organisations.

Kate’s background is in the food industry, where for many years she led teams working with clients such as M&S, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. Building on this experience she has spent 15 years working with executives and staff teams for some of the UK’s most well-known companies. Kate works across private, public and voluntary sectors, with clients in the UK, Europe and USA

Kate Jennings - Cambridge Executive Development

Track record

“Kate has been superb in her contact with us and personalisation of the course content including work specific role plays to meet our needs from start to finish… Working with Cambridge Exec has been a massive success and has provided a large section of our colleagues across the business with the tools and techniques to transform difficult conversations into every day conversations… A course and trainer I would highly recommend.”
L&D Specialist, Northern Gas

“This has provided me with the confidence I have been lacking for some time.”
Senior Officer, University of Wales

“One of the best training courses I have attended. Many thanks.”
Underwriter, Markel International

“Very engaging and interactive. Kate was superb.”
Director, Advertising Standards Agency

“I am noticeably more confident and self-aware since I took part on the course and feel empowered to develop my career in a way that plays to my strengths.”
Scientist, British Antarctic Survey

Cambridge Exec clients - leadership

Additional learning resources

Post-course support

We understand that your professional development doesn’t end when you walk out of the classroom. The time you’ve put in will only make a real impact if your learning is carried into the way you work. That’s why we offer post-course support in implementing your new skills, for as long as required. Your trainer is available to discuss problems, provide advice or offer feedback until you feel confident on your own.

E-learning package

This course also includes access to an ‘e-learning pinboard’, a password protected webpage where your trainer has posted articles, videos, interviews and other useful tools around the topic for you to draw on for inspiration and ideas going forward.

Bespoke virtual & classroom workshops

If you have any questions or if you would like to speak to one of our trainers about how the Coaching Skills for Managers course could work for your organisation please get in touch. We can deliver the course at your offices, anywhere in the UK – and beyond.

This course can be delivered for your group by our expert facilitators at your offices or as a virtual classroom live over the internet.

In most cases we can provide an all-inclusive quote to cover design, delivery and materials with some basic information:

  • Which course you are interested in
  • Where the course would take place (or if virtual)
  • How many delegates need to be trained

Just drop us a line with these basic facts and we’ll get back to you with a no-obligation quote on the same day.