How to Pop the Cork on Tough Conversations
If excellence was easy there’d be more of it.
Excellence challenges average.
The path to excellence is paved with tough conversations; not mean, tough. All great leaders achieve excellence by facing tough issues quickly and head on.
“Tough issues aren’t like wine.” Michael Hyatt.
I asked Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson publishing and author of “Platform,” about life’s tipping points and he told me about a coach he had years ago. Michael said,
“I had a problem. I was
tip toeing around tough issues.”
Michael’s coach asked, “Why do you see people as small?”
“What do you mean?”
Hyatt’s coach continued, “You see people as fragile and unable to handle what you have to say. Shift your paradigm about how you think about people.” As a result, Michael said:
- I’m standing for greatness in myself and others. Hyatt was already a man of excellence. He’s been that way since his college days. Standing for greatness reaches beyond personal excellence. It’s courageous and public.
- We can’t become great unless we talk.
- They can handle it.
“Successful leaders step into tough conversations.” Michael Hyatt.
6 Tips for tough conversations:
- Sooner is better than later. Err on the said of soon. If you’re wondering if it’s time to have a tough conversation, the answer is likely yes.
- Elevate the best interests of your people and organization. It’s about your values but ultimately it’s about them.
- Don’t point to greatness from a distance, go with.
- Face negative issues with positive suggestions and solutions.
- Always lead with vision. Identify preferred futures. Any fool can point out weaknesses and failures. Great leaders point to greatness.
- Combine calm and compassion with toughness. Compassion isn’t weakness it’s strength. Weak leaders berate and beat down. Strong leaders lift.
How can leaders successfully step into tough conversations?
Michael Hyatt just released his new book, “Platform.” It’s must reading for anyone with something to say or sell. It’s the most practical book on Social Media I’ve read.
Buy “Platform” by May 25, 2012 and enjoy over $375 worth of bonus benefits.
I have to stop myself from re-blogging your posts every day! Great stuff, as usual. Keep up the good work!
Hi Ryan, thank you for a wonderful encouragement! Best to you, Dan
I like the suggestion number 4: Face negative issues with positive suggestions and solutions. It is an excellent ideas. It needs a great deal of leadership maturity, wisdom and understanding. This is perhaps prevalent issues at workplace. Negatives issues might be common. it can be deliberate or un-deliberate. Whatever is the situation, leaders need to follow path that leads to non-recurring of such issues. Leaders should ensure that those issues do not damage the organizational reputation. At the workplace, interest of organization is higher than individual needs. So, in case of damage, organizational damage is much more higher than individual.
Leaders should evaluate the impact of tough conversations. There might me instances where tough conversation might lead to overall loss of the organization. It is important to understand the situations and context when tough conversation is needed. Leaders need to be judgmental about the situation and issues.
You picked out my favorite tip. The ability to identify and head toward positive outcomes is the difference between success and failure.
Thanks also for your insight regarding context. The suggestion that sooner is better than latter speaks to the issue of procrastination. However, there are times when delay is useful. Perhaps we need to prepare or allow time for people to resolve the issue themselves.
If there is forward movement without you, it may be better to stay out. Tough conversations aren’t about forward movement. They are about the lack of forward movement.
Thanks for making me think.
Everyone in the room knows where the uncomfortable situation is sitting. It takes on a life of its own. The true leader knows the longer they avoid the convo, the bigger the issue gets. Nip it in the bud.
I think it was Jane Purdue who said, “If there’s an elephant in the room invite it to dance.”
Great seeing you again.
Great post! We all like to avoid the ugliness.
A couple of thoughts:
If you don’t already have an established habit of talking, you won’t have a good basis to start a hard conversation.
Keep emotion out of it by starting with statements of fact and avoiding adjectives. At least initially, you want them to listen without trying to rebut. When you’ve set the direction, you want them to respond calmly. Your own demeanor will do a lot; be calm and factual and you invite a like response.
What a great addition to the conversation… if you aren’t already talking then starting with a tough conversation is tough.
Thanks for adding value to this important discussion.
I heard Susan Scott of “Fierce Conversations” speak a few years ago. Her quote, “Our careers, companies and relationships succeed or fail, gradually then suddenly—one conversation at a time.”, is applicable here.
I’m working with a client company right now where everyone knows where the elephant is but all are hesitant to name it. Unless the problem is named, the solution cannot come about.
I enjoy your blog Dan, it’s instructive and reminds us daily.
Thanks for the good word and intriguing quote by Susan Scott. I hadn’t heard that one.
Love the idea — if we can’t name it we can’t solve it. Solutions begin with naming problems.
Thank you for the post Dan, these are great points. I think it is all about how you approach the situation, with positive outcomes in mind or negative, point number four really does work. Have a nice weekend.
Thanks for being a LF regular.
Maybe we should think of tough conversations in airport language…
How will we approach the runway?
Where will we land?
How will we unload the baggage?
What new passengers will get on board?
How will will taxi and take off?
Most importantly … whats the destination?
Thanks for jumping in…
Why that might be a great idea! Enjoy your weekend.
There is simply nothing that could be added to this post (from a posting/commenting standpoint). What now needs to be added is the application of the post to real life.
Who’s with me?
Hmmm, talking and reading aren’t doing.
Personally, I’m having more “tough” conversations and I’m finding they aren’t as tough as I anticipated.
Dan, the ‘space’ must be ripe for this topic!
Just yesterday, Karen Kimsey-House (co-founder of the Coaches Training Institute) delivered a webinar on “Having Difficult Conversations” – She spoke eloquently (of course) to over 1000 professional coaches on how to have these conversations. She encouraged all to address issues as they come up (procrastination makes them worse for all concerned), to lean into these conversations… to recognize that these conversations are about telling the truth, speaking the space, then listening to the other.
“Conversation”, she said, comes from the latin, “to turn” “turning towards other” – the more challenging the issue, the greater opportunity to turn towards – and render the relationship more robust, honest, and alive.
– Decide (and own that) the conversation is about the relationship, NOT the issue.
– Before the conversation, look for YOUR role, your responsibility (what part did “I” play in this issue getting to this point?”)
– Going in, be clear about what outcome/s you want (not what expectations you have, especially about how you expect the OTHER person to change, or do something)
– Start by designing the alliance between you… how do we want this conversation to go
– During the conversation… make the relationship PRIMARY, be authentic and real, generate connection (intimacy) by listening and reflecting, and BREATHE (an underrated tool we all have)
– Conclude the conversation by confirming the agreements made, and by acknowledging (not the actions, the person).
The person with the most flexibility, the greatest range, the capacity to be gentle (which may feel ‘weak’ but is in fact, very powerful) will have the best outcomes.
No matter how the conversation goes, recognize something of value… look to the other person, to the relationship, or to yourself.
It was good, good stuff….
Thanks for adding so much value to this valuable conversation!
I’m aware of the webinar you mention. It’s part of the free PreSummit Series for Business and Executive coaches.
I think every current or soon to be coach would benefit.
Thank you for a great post.
I particularly like no. 5. Always lead with vision. Identify preferred futures. Any fool can point out weaknesses and failures. Great leaders point to greatness.
Not so good leaders lead by maticulate details. I still remember your post about jumping through hola hoops. It is so un motivating.
Tell poeple and they forget
Teach people and they will learn
Involve people and they will remember – AND ownership AND resposablity AND light your spark too.
The circle is full. You light their spark and they light yours. Synergy
Oh, and by the way: it does not hurt to say something nice to people
Fish and organisations rot from the top. And once you start to smell the smell, it’s often too late. Therfore never postpone the inevitable and start asking the tough questions.