A conversation

I’ve reflected on our relationship.  And I have something I want to say to you.

I love you.

Just your typical conversation with your direct report who is underperforming, yes?

Perhaps not.

But it could be.

The mismatch

If you are like many leaders we work with, you don’t like having what you call those ‘difficult conversations’.  Those conversations to talk about things which are not quite right between you and the other.  Which, as a leader, can be a gap between what your direct report is doing and what you want them to do.

We help leaders work through this mismatch, by encouraging them to first have the courage to initiate the conversation.  And then to articulate the problem with facts and communicate its impact.

We help them explore strategies for responding appropriately to their and the other’s reactions. And to be curious about navigating their way through any difficulty with kindness and assertiveness. So that their direct report can ultimately feel equipped to make the changes.


For those leaders who wish to go deeper, these mismatch conversations can be an opportunity to bring compassion into their leadership and the workplace.

The etymology of “compassion” is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.”  No longer just the domain of religion and spirituality, we recognise that compassion is a key component of good leadership and good coaching.

In Buddhism, the idea of sharing in suffering is essentially “feeling for and not feeling with the other.” We don’t have to be drained by the emotions of others, but we have a heart and head understanding of how they’re feeling. And as the field of social neuroscience has confirmed, we are wired to help.

Mismatching expectations, or underperformance, is probably one of the greatest sources of suffering in the workplace. And is therefore a ripe place for the leader to start practicing and exhibiting compassion.

If we attend to the other, we automatically empathise with them. So drawing from compassion theory, mindfulness and loving kindness meditation, there is a way to prepare yourself for those conversations.

It involves saying those 3 words.

I love you.

But relax. Saying them just in your mind will be enough.

It may seem improbable but there will be a shift in how you feel and in how you view that individual. And how you approach the conversation.

Here is a short exercise for you to experiment with.

A visualisation 

Take a moment to relax in your chair, gently close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath and the sensations in your body. 

And bring to mind that person who you want to have a conversation with.  A conversation which is important to you to help you both move forward. To bridge this performance gap and address the tension between you both.

You see that person. 

And you shine light on what you are doing to create separation between you both.

You offer yourself kindness. And you offer yourself compassion.

And you turn to look into the eyes of that person. 

You see them, their vulnerability and good intent. You sense their goodness. And you know that we all want to do a good job and you see that in them.

And feeling them close by, you reach out.

I love you, you say. I appreciate you. May you be free from suffering. 

Coming back to yourself you notice your own heart.

And you gently open your eyes.


Let us know how it helps with your next conversation.


  • Brach, T (2015) Sure Hearts Release, Audio Tape 4 March 2015, www.tarabrach.com 
  • Boyatzis R and McKee A (2005) Resonated Leadership: Renewing yourself and connecting with others through mindfulness, hope and compassion, Harvard business School Publishing, Boston
  • Goleman, Daniel (2007) Why aren’t we more compassionate? TED talk http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_goleman_on_compassion
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-clarity/201703/compassion-is-better-empathy
  • Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash
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