Supportive Conversations Toolkit: Conversational Leadership

Supportive Conversations Toolkit: Conversational Leadership

The Edge Institute is proud to present our ‘How to Have Supportive Conversations’ Toolkit. This kit is designed to guide you through conducting a supportive conversation as part of your  leadership role.

The toolkit has three key components to promote effective communication:

  • Supportive Conversations Factsheet – outlines a framework to aid facilitation and support leaders in having difficult conversations.
  • Conversation Preparation Worksheet – an interactive pre-conversation reflection and leadership conversation topics planning tool.
  • Conversation Prompt Card – a handy pocket guide to difficult conversations leadership.
How do I know if I need to have a supportive conversation?

At some point in time, everyone will be faced with long term change, challenges and stress in their lives.

While some people manage stressful periods effectively, others struggle to cope and may find that work stress impacts home life, or home stress impacts performance at work.

Signs that someone may be struggling may include, but are not limited to:

  • increased absenteeism/presenteeism
  • increased irritability, confusion or anxiety
  • difficulty forming clear thoughts or ongoing unhelpful thoughts
  • decreased concentration and/or memory
  • decreased work performance
  • avoidance of work commitments and increased defensiveness
How to use the toolkit

The content should be used by leaders prior to and during a supportive conversation with a member of their team.

Leaders are encouraged to start by reading the Supportive Conversations Factsheet to understand the five key steps of a supportive conversation. In preparation for an upcoming conversation, leaders are then encouraged to reflect and plan using the Conversation Preparation Worksheet.

There are five simple steps to planning for – and conducting – effective communication with a colleague. It is important to remember that the key word is ‘supportive’ and that there is no blame or guilt attached to the process.

By following these 5 steps, you will be able to approach the conversation well-prepared and focused on creating a psychologically safe environment for all.


Before conducting a conversation where an emotional response may be triggered, invest some time to reflect and plan prior to the conversation.

The following questions can be useful to ask yourself when identifying and clarifying potentially important information prior to meeting with your team member.


Inquiry is simply about gathering and sharing relevant information so that a more informed decision can be discussed regarding what type of support, if any, the individual may require from the organisation.


Individuals may sometimes forget the personal strengths that they can call on in challenging times. This can include their previous experiences, even if they are not directly related.

If they got through another big challenge in their life that required determination and courage, it can be a great way of reminding them that they have demonstrated these qualities in the past and can apply these same strengths to their current challenge.


This is a critical step in conducting a supportive conversation. Depending on the particular challenge the individual is facing and how emotional they are feeling, this planning stage may need to be left for another meeting.

When you are ready to generate a plan, the primary focus should be on how you as their leader and the organisation can best support the individual back to full health.

This may simply mean that you occasionally check in with the team member to see how they are coping, but no change to their work role is required.

Follow up

Once a plan of action is in place, it is important to have brief follow-ups to see how the team member is progressing.

Again, it’s important to note that this is not about seeking personal information regarding what external supports they are accessing, but rather how they perceive they are able to manage their current work role.

To learn more, download our FREE Supportive Conversations Toolkit.


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