A character arc is a story telling element used to convey one’s inner journey. It usually goes something like this:
The main character seems initially unable to overcome obstacles, possibly because he or she lacks skills or knowledge or resources.
To overcome those obstacles, the protagonist must change, often by learning new skills, to arrive at a higher sense of self-awareness or capability.
Protagonists can achieve such self-awareness by interacting with their environment, enlisting help of mentor or by changing their perspective.

A tough conversation with an employee or team member follows the same ‘arc’ from beginning to end. It goes like this:

Step 1) Before: You are dreading the tough conversation and feel like you might be in over your head and fear that it won’t go well.
Here is where the tough topic arc matches the character arc. For you to be successful with the conversation you have to start with self-awareness. What do you need to manage differently in yourself for the discussion to go well and learning new ways to best understand how to have a conversation that accomplishes what you need it to achieve.

Step 2) During: Be open ended – ask questions, make sure you understand. Get clarification on anything that seems like you and the other person are not on the same page.

Step 3) The End: You want a successful ending for both of you. Make sure you have agreement on the problem, explain solutions clearly, get their buy-in and understanding, define consequences if accountability fades. Set a follow-up discussion.
What are the tough topics? Here is a short list I put together, but what is ‘tough’ is somewhat defined by us as individuals too.


What type of tough topic conversations are you having?

  • Discipline, probation and termination issues
  • Performance problems
  • Conflict with employees who are at odds with one another
  • Behaviors/Attitudes that tax office relationships
  • Policy and/or procedure violations
  • Harassment issues of any type
  • Avoidance of personal responsibility and blaming others
  • You are one of the two key protagonists in the story of tough topics. You will achieve greater self-awareness by interacting with iMapMyTeam to help you prepare successfully for a tough topic of any manner. Think of iMap as another mentor that helps shape your viewpoint.

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