Here’s the question that was posed to the Lead With Giants Community on Google Plus:
Being a leader means being willing to have uncomfortable conversations with others. What are some lessons you’ve learned about this? How, do you overcome your own reluctance? What advice can you give us?
Here’s the wise answers from 8 of our members:
8 Tips for Having Uncomfortable Conversations
I usually follow these guidelines to lead past my own challenges: (1) focus on my empathy and adaptability strength themes. (2) remember that leadership demands working outside our comfort zone. (3) assumptions are gifted liars, don’t believe them. (4) seek to understand before seeking to be understood.
By nature I’m a very direct person. It’s not a difficult thing to have direct and hard conversations. As a result what I need to work on is softening the message or how it lands. This is a constant struggle as I feel it dilutes the message. I prefer just saying it like it is. Working on finding the right balance.
I choose to put my ego aside and ensure I stay locked on my inner channel = the heart / making myself vulnerable to others. I find that when I do this people really know where I am coming from / I don’t hold back and my experience is it opens doors of endless possibilities. I may then choose to action some open doors, not all, and I know when people are hiding which does not help us move forward. Being in the flow and remaining in it / in movement is something that I cherish daily.
John E. Smith
Over the years that I was a practicing manager, I had many opportunities to have difficult conversations with others. A couple of thoughts:
1) Not all difficult conversations are equal.
Sometimes I am talking to someone about their individual performance and sometimes it has more to do with their interactions. Sometimes the outcome is foregone and I am just notifying and explaining, while other times I am attempting to influence the outcome. Sometimes I am talking to a trusted colleague and other times to a relatively unfamiliar person.
2) Your agenda is only part of the equation.
I was originally trained to view difficult conversations as a contest, where either I win or the other person wins. This is not productive. Now, I acknowledge my own goals, but also try to include or at least acknowledge the other person’s goals as well. This costs nothing, but can pay off in a more productive and even more civilized discussion, regardless of the eventual outcome.
3) Begin with the end in mind (not original to me)
When I get my mind VERY clear about the boundaries of the discussion, especially the difference between what has to happen and what may happen, I am then better equipped to plan out the start. My experience includes a strong aversion to the HR script scenario, where one is so programmed to cover certain points that they might as well be reading a script (and in at least one case, were required to do so.
If you know where you have to go, you can be more flexible and resilient on the journey.
I think the most compelling lesson I learned with difficult conversations is to stop rehearsing them +Dan Forbes. When you rehearse, you fail to be there in the moment of the conversation. Instead, you may be thinking about how to fit in that remark you thought of ahead of time.
I would say it’s more about our attitude, having the emotional intelligence to create a win-win dialogue instead of focusing on who is winning the conversation. I love Stephen Covey’s approach of Seek first to understand, then to be understood. When we try to understand and communicate we hear their message, the more open the conversation is. At the end of the day, It’s about having an open mind and understanding your behavior toward these relationships.
Have you ever noticed how you’re dreading the conversation and then after you have it – you realize most of the dread was in your mind? Stepping into what we fear or avoid is usually easier than all the worry and energy spent avoiding, now isn’t it?
Having heart and empathy and confidence are all very important, but difficult conversations are equally about being able to communicate your thoughts and points in a way that can be heard by the other person.
Not only must the leader listen, but it’s vital that the team member listen as well…sometimes that takes a little skill to ensure the team member is on the same page as the leader.
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