Who Wants to Have a “Hard Conversation”?

by | Articles, Leadership

What’s the Alternative?

Almost every leader I work with has one thing in common- a dislike of “hard conversations”. You know what I dislike? The term “hard conversations”. Don’t get me wrong, I still use it because I haven’t found an alternative that makes me cringe less. If you have an idea, I’m all ears! 

It’s like emotions, labelling something as good or bad sets us up to want to reject and repel against the “bad” and only embrace the “good”. When, in fact, we need them all. When we need to have a conversation with someone and we call it “hard” from the onset, aren’t we doing the same? 

What are some other ways to frame these types of conversations- ones where we need to hold someone accountable, share a negative impact, point out an inconsistency? While I’m working on coming up with a better term, there are a couple of things I do to not let the word “hard” inadvertently cause me to avoid these conversations all together. 

I Realize I Need to Have the Convo…Now What?

First, I try to understand the bigger picture (the point about caring in this article really resonates for me, how about you?), 

  • Why does the conversation matter?
  • Why am I feeling compelled to share my feedback?
  • What part of my responsibility as a leader does this fall into? 
  • Why is this conversation important to the other person? Our working relationship? The org’s values and purpose?

Second, I think about what I want the experience to be like– the tone (I’m not saying you have to start practicing Buddhism but this author has some good points on the importance of paying attention to our tone), the impact on the other person, the outcome. My responses are generally, 

  • Productive and kind.
  • I want the other person to know I care, even if I fumble.
  • I want everyone involved, including myself, to walk away having been seen, heard, and understood (if you think you’re listening just because you’re hearing the other person, think again and take a look at this article on the difference. Listening is a powerful and crucial skill that requires learning and practice!)

Don’t Let “Busy” be an Excuse

This all sounds so simple on paper, but most people jump into these conversations with very little consideration of anything deeper than the need to share their perspective. Everyone is busy, that’s a fact. But wouldn’t you want to know that someone approaching you to have a “hard conversation” did so with intention and thoughtfulness? And, for the record, the other person is much more likely to be open and receptive to what you have to share if you do make that extra effort. 

Sometimes it Helps to Learn More

Good intentions are great. I can want to create a conversation that is both direct and kind. If I’m not skilling myself up to be able to do so, I’m not going to actualize that intention (what’s the connection between great leadership and intentions? This article will let you know). You don’t need another degree or a week long retreat, just some dedicated time, space, and guidance and that’s exactly what the 10X Learning & Practice Labs create.

Interested in coming together to learn, brainstorm, and support one another on this VERY topic??

We’re looking for TWO more leaders to join us on July 27th & Aug 3rd (remote) from 10-12 EST.

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