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British Airways

Seating BAIE Blackwood - Managing Challenging Conversations

The Objective

British Airways asked us to offer support and give practical skills to team leaders and line managers in order to build their confidence and better equip them to hold challenging conversations on a range of issues. We were asked to help BAIE managers and leaders to be able to:

  • Understand and overcome the concerns that hold us back from undertaking challenging conversations.
  • Understand the law regarding challenging performance and conduct.
  • Identify the kinds of impact we want to achieve via a challenging conversation.
  • Recognise what we need to do to prepare for a challenging conversation.
  • Practice and learn the realities of conducting a challenging conversation.

The Solution

We provided an engaging yet intensive two-day course designed to help managers be able to have those conversations to tackle a variety of challenging issues in the workplace, including inappropriate conduct and performance issues. To start us off Hugh James facilitated a session around the legal principles of “staying safe” to enable participants to appreciate the legal context of the necessary conversations with staff members. The aim of the legal input was very much centred on prevention rather than cure, and provided pragmatic, commercial advice, and HR best practice. We were able to refer to BAIE policies and practice throughout to ensure it was highly relevant to the participants and, encompassed topics including dignity at work, performance, discipline, and grievance.

Critically, the managers had an opportunity to assess their own conflict styles and understand their own barriers to having difficult conversations. Our research tells us there are 39 reasons why we choose not to address issues; we helped managers understand their ‘inner critics’ and provided tools and techniques for them to manage and overcome those barriers to having effective conversations with clear outcomes.

Our second day was all about putting this into practice: working with professional role-players, the participants had the opportunity to have those conversations with actors briefed to respond to the way they were being talked to. Whilst many people dread the prospect of role-play, the unanimous feedback was how powerful the simulation sessions were – not only did they provide an opportunity to be “in the room” having the live conversation, but participants learnt from observing colleagues having their conversations and seeing the impact of things that went well (and those that could have gone better!).

Services Offered

  • A high-impact, confidence-boosting workshop for managers and team/line leaders.

The Results

We always like our participants to be able to take action as a result of their learning and this was no exception – each manager/line lead was asked to reflect on which conversations they know they need to have and to commit to having those conversations within the subsequent weeks.

Feedback from the client told us that our two-day course was “extremely informative” and achieved its objective in having “given managers the confidence to approach necessary conversations”.

The detailed results of this tailored programme are captured in the table below, which clearly illustrates the extent to which the team and line leaders themselves believed that the course was well delivered, highly relevant to their needs, and a valuable undertaking.

The Hugh James/Insight partnership delivered both enjoyable and educating training which was personally tailored to target specific challenges within the business. We found it extremely beneficial and a good balance of practical and theory.

Brian Currie / General Manager, British Airways

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