7 Elevator Conversations
Tough conversations are like riding an elevator. There comes a point, if you don’t speak, talking is nearly impossible.
7 elevator conversations:
- Performance issues. (Especially with higher ups.)
- Changes that impact status within organizations.
- Disappointment with new hires.
- Processes that have outlived their usefulness.
- Interpersonal tensions.
- Disagreement with higher ups.
- Follow up that falls through. Deadlines that come and go.
Leaders who can’t have tough conversations stagnate in frustration.
7 ways to solve the elevator problem:
#1. Bring up tough issues with compassion. Don’t use anger as courage.
#2. Bring up tough issues quickly. One way to solve the elevator problem is to start talking when you step in.
#3. Let go the need to have a solution before having conversations. Negative situations drag on, when leaders need to know-all and decide-all.
Adopt a “find a solution” approach.
#4. State the “better”. Leaders fall short when they focus on things they don’t want.
Spend 30% of your time discussing problems and 70% creating “better”.
#5. Declare concerns with optimism. Try saying, “I’m concerned about hurting people’s feelings, but I believe we can make things better if we deal with this issue.”
#6. Flex your “tough conversation” muscles frequently. Try including the following questions in daily conversations:
- What’s working? Speak positives at least 4x more often than negatives. Walk around looking for behaviors, progress, or results to praise.
- What could be better? Get beyond, “Nothing could be better.” You might respond, “You mean we’re in heaven? There must be something that could be better.”
- What do we need to stop doing?
- What am I doing that’s helpful? (What are you doing that’s helpful?)
- How might I/you be more helpful?
- What’s the next step? Get specific.
- When can you let me know?
- What are we/you avoiding?
#7. Forget about perfection.
Perfection blocks better.
What tough conversations do leaders avoid?
How might tough conversations become a regular part of organizational life (without become negative)?
Perfect timing. Thank you.
Thanks John. Best for the journey.
Compassion, directness, and the ability to get to the point are definitely assets for tough and critical conversations. Thanks for the pointers, Dan!
Thanks Allen. I think, at times, we make false dichotomies. For example, you have to be hard to have tough conversations. Really, the best time to be soft is during hard conversations. 🙂 Cheers
Another great, thought-provoking post, thanks Dan! I find that having regular retro meetings (we work in an Agile environment) is a fantastic way to address problems. It’s a chance where everyone can be honest and we focus on actions to resolve the problem.
Thanks Tina. It seems like the key to this is “regular.” We can create structures/systems that make tough conversations expected, normal, and less dramatic because they are just part of organizational life. Cheers
Yes, that’s exactly right!
Kudos on the article. I could easily reflect on on my positive and productive experiences with tough conversations. Those included your highlighted points. In addition, I agree when our leadership behaviours are predictable in terms of frequency and focus, the conversations can become easier. I often call the direct approach my “20 seconds of awkwardness.” Awkward because most doing want the conversation. After the brief “20 seconds” bringing up a topic, we then focus on the resolution and solution. Appreciate the “being soft” comment during some of these conversations.
All of these are applicable to daily life that I could use with interpersonal relationship. Thank you.
Great article! More Elevator Conversations will lead to less conflict in any organization! Almost as important is how we engage in Elevator Conversations as leaders when we are on the receiving end.