What do you do when you have an employee who is great at getting results, meeting their targets, and great with customers, but when it comes to their team, they are abrasive, abusive and condescending?
What do you do when you’re in a relationship and your partner says they will call, and they don’t? They say they will show up, but they don’t. They say they will be there for you, and they are not. Worse yet, this has been going on for months…
What do you do when you’re in a meeting with your direct report who does all the talking all the time, and never asks for input or feedback? What if your employee is not a team player and it’s really hurting morale?
It is time for an intervention. What kind of intervention? It’s time to have a courageous conversation.
In most organizations, and in our relationships, we’re all so busy being polite with everyone that we’re either not aware of the breakdown, afraid of the breakdown, or avoiding it altogether. We kid ourselves into thinking that if we don’t deal with it, maybe it will go away.
When we fail to engage and say what we honestly think and feel, our business performance will suffer. When what “goes unsaid” is not being said, our relationships will fail.
Here’s how to approach those courageous conversations that need to take place…
Be Courageous: The essence of a courageous conversation is being direct and not fearful. Having a conversation in your head isn’t the same as having a real conversation. Being courageous means being connected to your feelings. Feelings of fear and anxiety create distance. When we are courageous we are fearless. When we act with courage, there is a certain grace that is brought to the conversation.
Be Present: In order to have a courageous conversation, we need to be completely in the moment. Often, in meetings and in relationships where we interact with others, we fail to be fully present. We go through the motions, but we’re not really there, or we’re mentally checked out. In order to have a successful courageous conversation, we need to stay present and engaged. When we are present, we can be more aware of our feelings and the feelings of others.
Be Reflective: In order for us to have a productive courageous conversation, we need to pause and reflect. Sometimes we react without thinking about how our response might impact the person(s) with whom we are interacting. Without pausing, without being reflective, we might choose an inappropriate response. We may say something we will regret.
Be Human: When participating in a courageous conversation, we need to be human. Most of us have a limited vocabulary when expressing our feelings, so we are more likely to offer an automatic or habitual response than to connect heart to heart. When we are human, we have a need to connect, to understand, to listen and to belong. When we are being human, we can bring meaning and energy to the heart of what is important.
Be Attentive: When involved in a courageous conversation, you must be a great listener. Pay close attention and demonstrate sincere interest in the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Be the person who is truly listening by tapping into hidden dialogue, and uncovering what is not being said. When you make more meaningful contact, you are more likely to get the other person’s full attention.
Be Honest: When engaging courageous conversation, we need to be honest and say what we truly feel, without putting off what’s really on our mind. Honesty is not easy. We often repress our true feelings, so much so that sometimes we don’t really know what we honestly want. We must be able to be honest and to say what we are truly feeling, seeing, and wanting. To be honest with yourself and others is to honor self. Being honest will set you free.
Be Curious: When involved in a courageous conversation, leave control at the door. Stay open and curious. The more you try to control, the more out of control you will feel. Try to understand what the other is saying. This does not mean you accept what they say as your truth: it simply means you are open to the possibilities. It is essential to remain open and curious, and not judgmental and controlling.
Be Accountable: When having a courageous conversation, being accountable means that you take responsibility for what you say and how you say it. Do not blame, claim or abuse anyone else. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be the one who recognizes that being accountable will help shift the conversation from blame to gaining understanding.
Be Committed: By bringing commitment to your interactions, you learn the power of courageous conversation. Your commitment to be courageous fosters connection. Being committed to courageous conversation will make your communications clear and compelling. It will bring knowing to the unknown.
Lead From Within: When we are aware, we listen to each other, even if there are differences. If we stay focused, if we remain our caring human self, and if we pay attention to others’ feelings and ideas, we foster greater understanding.
If we are honest about our feelings, if we remain curious, and if we are committed to forging courageous conversations, we will help strengthen relationships, productivity, and communication.
Where can you have a courageous conversation today?
Which meeting? What boss? Which employee? What relationship?
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is being released by Portfolio May 2017.