Module 5 Briefing Sheet

Managing Difficult Conversations
and Influencing Stakeholders



  • Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin: “Secrets From the Science of Persuasion.” YouTube Video posted by Influence At Work, November 2012. (This animated video is a summary of the HBR article)
  • If you want to go deeper on the topic: Sheila Heen: “Difficult Conversations in Changing Times.”  YouTube Video posted by Triad Consulting Group, 2014. Heen is a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School and has developed negotiation theory and practice at the Harvard Negotiation Project for 20 years. In this keynote at the Memphis Leadership Conference (2013), Heen discusses “core emotional interests,” that when met enable openness, collaboration, flexibility and adaptability. When these core needs go unmet, difficult conversations escalate often ending with unintended impact and consequences.


  • Recall a recent workplace conversation that was difficult for you. Write a short verbatim “script” of the conversation. Try to write at least 6-8 statements on each side of the conversation (I said, s/he said,) and capture some of the non-verbal behaviors as well.
  • Read “Leadership That Gets Results,” “How to Handle Difficult Workplace Conversations,” and “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion,” and view the video “Clashing with a Coworker.”
  • Optional: View the videos: “Secrets from the Science of Persuasion” and “Difficult Conversations in Changing Times.”


“Leadership That Gets Results”

  • What is your “go to” style when initiating difficult conversations? What is your “go to” style when engaged in a difficult conversation?
  • What have you observed concerning your impact on others when engaging these styles?

“How to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work”

  • When you are engaged in difficult workplace conversations, how would you evaluate your ability to: change your mindset, focus and breathe, plan but not script, acknowledge the other perspective, etc.
  • In the 2 cases, how are you similar/different to the approaches taken by Tabatha Turman and Betty Thompson? Does anything concern or relieve you in your similarities/differences?

“Clashing with a Coworker”

  • What is your general default in managing conflict: “avoider” or “seeker”?

Review your verbatim conversation. What is the impact of your pre-work and new awareness on what you would have done the same were you to have that conversation again? Differently?

COHORT MEETING (Meet to discuss the following BEFORE Classroom Session)

  • Check in and share any additional learning from the previous session
  • Have a brief discussion about your leadership development plan:
    • What did you commit to start and stop doing? (Are you doing it?)
    • How is it making a difference?
    • Did you create an accountability circle? How are you using them?
    • What action step do you need to take next on your Development Plan?
  • Share your verbatim “recent difficult workplace conversation.” Share your insights:
    • Your skills to manage the conversation effectively.
    • Your leadership style self-awareness and its impact on the conversation.
    • Your impact on the person involved.
  • Share any additional insights from the pre-work.

Click here to download a Word version of this Briefing Sheet.


  • Develop self-awareness of one’s behavioral and leadership styles and the impact these have in business relationships.
  • Learn to recognize others' behavioral and leadership style and practice flexing one’s preferred style.
  • Understand the importance of context and its impact on managing workplace conflict.
  • Learn the science of persuasion, and practice influencing strategies to manage workplace relationships without sacrificing business objectives.

Start typing and press Enter to search