Jack Welch Grabbed Jim McCann by the Collar

Jack Welch

Putting off difficult conversations doesn’t help. The longer you wait, the harder they get.

Jim McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-Flowers Inc., shared Jack Welch’s “encouragement” when it comes to having difficult conversations.

Jack grabbed Jim by the jacket lapels and said, “Jim, have you ever heard someone say, ‘I wish we’d waited six more months to fire that bastard?’”

Jim shares his reluctance and the encounter with Jack (2:49): 

There’s more to tough conversations than firing people. Excellence in business and leadership is a function of difficult conversations.

Successful leaders move toward difficult conversations, not away.

Dress rehearsal:

You may have the tendency to close down when difficult conversations are imminent. Opening up is a better alternative. One strategy that helps is a dress rehearsal.

Jim often practices difficult conversations with his brother Chris. He explains the process in his new book, “Talk is (NOT) Cheap.” During dress rehearsal:


  1. Disappointments.
  2. Emotions.
  3. Complaints.

“Through these dry runs I am able to place a safety valve on my emotions.” Jim McCann.

Like Jim, I have trusted friends I practice with. These conversations protect, extend, and enhance leadership. The conversation may not go as planned. But, planning helps you get going and addresses apprehensions.

After venting, Jim and his brother reframe difficult conversations:

  1. Reconnect with your goals for the conversation.
  2. How can you bring about the results you desire?
  3. What are possible motivations of the other person?

Difficult conversation need clarity of purpose and structure.

Something better:

Don’t wait for difficult conversations. “Create a structure of feedback…one that constantly communicates how things are going.” (From, “Talk is (NOT) Cheap)

How can leaders deal with reluctance to have difficult conversations?

What structure is important to difficult conversations?

Jim’s new Book, “Talk is (NOT) Cheap,” is about much more than difficult conversations. He introduces the idea of conversation leadership and applies it to management, customers, family, community, and more.

Connect with Jim:

Facebook: Talk is not Cheap Book
Twitter: @Jim1800Flowers