How to manage difficult conversations

How to give (and receive) great feedback

Free report

Discover how to take the fear our of fierce conversations.

Often, leaders and managers have received little to no training in how to have a difficult conversation, and thus may end up avoiding the situation altogether until it becomes serious. 

This series of 3 sessions aims to demystify the process of preparing for, holding and - most importantly - following up on, a difficult conversation. It's based on a face-to-face workshop that Making Teams Work has been delivering since 2015 and draws on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP), amongst others.

What makes a conversation 'difficult'?

This introduction to the subject will aim to reduce the anxiety out of conversations that most of us would rather avoid having. We’ll look at what lies behind the difficulty by hearing from two pre-recorded interviews/ discussions with people who have had relevant experiences that were successful and un-successful. 

As a supporting model, we'll look very briefly at the Herzburg Two-factor theory and how that might inform our understanding of why a person might be unhappy at work – leading to their performance or behaviour becoming unsatisfactory.

How to give feedback: The NICER feedback model

Many ‘difficult’ conversations are triggered because of unhelpful behaviour or attitudes displayed over an extended period. I believe this can often be avoided by providing clearer and more actionable feedback quickly after the initial event.

The NICER feedback model was developed following frustration with the commonly used ‘Feedback Sandwich’ which is usually ineffective for several reasons. This session covers what works and doesn't when giving feedback, an overview of the NICER model, and group work using learning scenarios.

Managing a difficult conversation: The PEAR process

When feedback has not had the required effect, or if a performance/behavioural situation escalates too rapidly, a difficult conversation may be necessary. This session will explore the emotional aspects of such conversations and how to manage that through good preparation, application, and follow-up.

Referring to the first module on what makes a conversation difficult, I will walk you through the steps in the PEAR process using a worked example. Participants will be encouraged to find a learning buddy to work through a sample conversation with. 

Training that teaches you and your team techniques that are:

  • Simple: No blinding with science or theory here -just straightforward stuff that works, 
  • Memorable: With acronyms that make sense, things become easier to remember,
  • Useable: The aim is that you can implement what you learn within a day of learning it. 

Why me?

Jonathan is renowned for building the resilience and performance of teams & their leaders, facilitating learning through interactive & engaging workshops tailored in-the-moment to best serve the objectives of participants. He has run Making Teams Work since 2010 delivering training, coaching, and facilitation building on experiences from corporate life that included 14 years at Hewlett Packard leading a virtual team spread across the globe. 

He now specialises in working with critical and blue-light services, and has worked with a variety of organisations in the public and private sectors including: 19 of the UK's police forces, The College of Policing, Intel, EasyJet, EE, O2, Lloyds Banking Group, Standard Life and the University of Bristol where he’s a visiting fellow, facilitator and lecturer. His first (serious) book: "The Resilience Toolkit: Powerful ways to thrive in blue-light services" was published in February 2019 and has sold over 1000 copies.

Training packages

Face-to-Face Workshop

This course is available as either a 1 day or 2 x half-days face-to-face workshop for up to 16 participants.

While every workshop is tailored to your specific requirements, we include content, techniques, and exercises designed to maximise learning and cover challenges that the participants bring on the day.

All participants are provided with a dedicated workbook and given access to a private online learning environment providing: supporting material, recommended reading lists, and on-line chat.

Workshops are followed with weekly 'office hours' via the chat function and an on-line Q&A session around 4 weeks after the face-to-face event. Fees are from £1800 - £2400 + VAT & expenses.

Get in touch below to discuss the course in more detail.

Online Webinar

This course is available as 3 90-minute online sessions for 25 to 50 participants, spaced at least 1 week apart. We use online tools such as Poll Everywhere and Mural to include content, techniques, and exercises which are designed to maximise learning and cover challenges that the participants bring.

All participants are provided with access to a private online learning environment providing: event links, an electronic workbook, supporting material, recommended reading lists, and online chat. Workshops are followed with weekly 'office hours' via the chat function and an online Q&A session around 4 weeks after the final event. Fees are from £1800 + VAT (No expenses) depending on the number of participants.

An "Open" version of this course is sometimes running. Details below if so:

Online Training Course

This material is currently being developed as a self-paced on-line course accessed using an app on a mobile device or via a web-page. Click below to register your interest and I'll let you know when it is ready.

What others are saying about this training:

Really good if you struggle

It is really good if you struggle with giving others feedback and having difficult conversations. Come with your examples!

Hannah Watkins

Incredibly useful to understand

This content is not common sense, it's incredibly useful to understand and learn these (feedback & accountability) techniques.

Ben Cross

Feedback & difficult conversations = Awesome course!

The style/flexibility was really useful. Enable true interactive style to solve issues. Awesome course.


Very well delivered

Accountability, Feedback and Difficult Conversations workshop:Good number of situational examples to trial the techniques and methods, good way to apply & learn knowledge. Good applicability to role -> likely to be used. Very well delivered course with justification behind the models and able to adapt to meet questions.

National Composites Centre Engineer

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you help my team?

Yes. Good for you for caring enough to ask. Email me with the title “Team” and I’ll get in touch with ideas. That could range from short webinars spread over a few weeks to an all-day course.

What would training cost?

1:1 coaching starts at £150 for 90 minutes.

All-day courses at £1800.

Webinars start from £450 depending on duration and numbers. All prices excl VAT.

What if I want more personalised help?

Reply to one of my messages and put “Help” in the title, and we'll arrange to talk. Solutions could range from 1:1 coaching to a webinar, course or just a copy of The Resilience Toolkit. Get in touch today.

What format training do you offer?

I provide training in the most useful format for you. That could be face-to-face or virtual. When virtual, I've found it best to split content across 2 or 3 sessions, as 6 hours on-line isnt the best for really learning anything! You also learn more when the sessions are spread out.


After an initial discussion about your specific requirements, I will create a short outline of a proposed course or programme, including costs. When you agree to proceed on this basis, we will set a date/time and location for the workshop(s) and I will generate a formal quote to enable you to provide a purchase order number. Email confirmation of the booking will be taken as binding. Terms and Conditions are available on request - including cancellation terms.

What tools do you use?

With the 2020 lockdown due to COVID-19, I had to migrate quickly from front-of-room training to completely online delivery. One of the first things was a way to make it really interactive. I adopted ‘Poll Everywhere’ for live polling, 'Mural' for live white boarding, and 'GiraffePad' as my online learning environment.

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