We've got three reasons you'll want to.
Loud talking team member?
No worries, suggest they take their calls in the quiet room.
Have to cut a brilliant initiative from the budget?
People understand problems of dollars and cents, so easy enough to tackle that one.
Team Lead is completely unaware the last three employees left because of their ineffective leadership?
Now we’ve got a problem.
Some truths are harder to share. If we treat others as we’d like to be treated, we should tell them (kindly) what they need to know, whether for social awareness or professional improvement. Right? But it’s hard. And it’s not fun. These are challenging conversations.
We avoid these conversations. Like Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men,” we kid ourselves that “you can’t handle the truth.” We fear emotional reactions. We rationalize that it might work itself out, not recognizing that procrastinating will make it worse. Or we just don’t want to feel uncomfortable. And here’s the thing: it won’t be comfortable. We must sit in discomfort and boldly go where many (leaders) avoid going.
3 reasons to tell the truth
1. It’s not about your comfort. You’re investing in others.
Deliver tough feedback, corrective direction or honest words to demonstrate your belief in the value of people—as individuals and as teams. Consistent and accurate feedback lays the groundwork for growth. Most of us want to grow and learn in our professional (and personal) lives. Challenging conversations are investments in the growth and development process. They allow for transformation and growth—and contribute to the overall health of the team, and the organization.
2. Truthful (trust-based) conversations can be transformative.
Giving feedback comes with the risk of being rejected as wrong, political lobbying, or even mean spirited. Receiving verbal feedback can be a shocker, or a moment of truth. Identify the precise information you need the employee to hear and to understand. Keep in mind that “things” change, while people transform—and both are a process.
3. You’ll become a great leader
Purposely not having a difficult conversation can be indicative of a passive-aggressive leadership style. Believing a conversation isn’t worth having, because an individual is assumed not to be capable or willing to change, isn’t providing leadership. Leaders are tasked to develop people, give them feedback and increase their self-awareness. Ultimately, healthy organizations are the ones where people know where they stand.
3 tips to improve your challenging conversations:
Starting the conversation can be as uncomfortable as receiving the message. Reduce stress for everyone:
Be Clear and Compassionate: Don’t massage your message into a diplomatic mess of nothingness. Nothing comes from nothing—there will be no change. Go in curious. Go in with the intent to listen, develop, improve and enable. Be direct and show respect.
Reframe: Difficult is often equated with negative, but that’s not always the case. Rename the “bad or difficult” conversation to “problem solving” meeting, as a useful shift to start the conversation.
Prepare: To prepare for the conversation, you need to name that problem. Create a key message (the info they need to hear) to deliver early in the conversation operating on the premise that most people retain very little of a conversation.
Leaders have difficult conversations to support teams and individuals. Great leaders don’t just tackle the fun conversations, they tackle the challenging ones with the same vigor.
A final thought on self-leadership.
Do you willingly enter in to difficult conversations? How do you react when someone approaches you with tough truths?
Being a great leader starts with self-awareness. You can learn more about your leadership style through the Birkman Method. Birkman measures many aspects of personality and mindset, including:
- Interests – Activities you enjoy and are motivated by in your work and personal life
- Usual Behaviour – Your effective and productive behavioural style for tasks and relationships
- Needs – How you need to be, or expect to be, treated by other people and your environment
- Stress Behaviour – Your ineffective and unproductive behavioural style when your needs are unmet
Want to increase your self-awareness? Contact us about completing a Birkman Method Profile.
Peter Reek is the Founder and President of Smart, Savvy + Associates. We find high-calibre marketing, communications, creative and sales professionals with proven track records and in-demand skills for companies who need them, across the Pacific Northwest and in Toronto. We also provide leadership and training development programs for workplace programs, corporate retreats and individual growth opportunities. Contact Peter to discuss your organization's training needs.