“Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to transform a company, a relationship, or a life, any single conversation can. Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person. It could be. Participate as if it matters. It does.” – Susan Scott
Do you have a co-worker who is undermining you? Do you have feedback you would like to give, but are afraid to cause offence? Is a member of your team not delivering what he/she is supposed to deliver? What all these scenarios have in common is the courageous conversation. Conflict will occur in the workplace, but it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Courageous conversations done correctly lead to greater productivity and stronger teams, hence, being able to have courageous conversations is a key skill for any leader. However, courageous conversations require more than courage. You also need skill, strategy, and sincere desire to do good. Here are 5 tips to add to your toolkit!
1. Fact check. The very first thing you need to do before entering into a courageous conversation is a fact check; that is, ensure everything you are planning to say is accurate. Look at the situation from different perspectives and make sure you are not being biased.
2. Check your ego. Take ownership of your own mistakes and your role in the conflict. Were your instructions clear enough? Should you have spoken up earlier? Before entering into conversation, set your intentions and be clear on the purpose and the desired outcome of the conversation.
3. Awareness and honesty. Start off by being honest yourself. Give the person examples of the behaviour in question, the impact it had and state clearly what your expectations are going forward. Plus remember to listen closely to their responses, make it a 2-way conversation without losing sight of its purpose.
4. Acknowledge and listen. The nature of courageous conversations is such that they are often held in emotionally charged and tense situations. Acknowledging the other, their perspective and their emotions, can make or break the work relationship. Rather than getting hijacked by your own emotions, zoom out and try getting into the other person’s shoes. A good dose of sensitivity and emotional intelligence may well be the salve needed to move things forward constructively. As the saying goes, a good leader has two ears and one mouth; listening is key.
5. Stay humble. It is a natural reaction when faced with some form of criticism to become defensive. Some people may go further and get downright unpleasant. It may be tempting to descend to their level and add to the drama. This however will serve no positive purpose. Stay focused on your goal, and remain humble, no matter how the other person responds.
As with everything in life, you may not always obtain the desired outcome, but if you continue practicing courageous conversations your professional relationships, and subsequently your business, will flourish.
Have you ever had to have a courageous conversation? What was the greatest challenge? Contribute to the conversation below.