7 Steps for Success With Courageous Conversations

“I’ll get it to you by tomorrow – and that’s a promise boss!”

Sheila cringed as she half smiled and walked away after hearing the words Dave just hurriedly yelled across the lobby.  Here they were again: end of the month.  Financial reports were due to the Regional Manager and she was still waiting on Dave to submit the sales reports from his department.  Why did she keep putting herself in this stressful situation?

When you think about your last conversation with a colleague, a client, your spouse, a friend or your boss – how did it go?  Did you achieve what you hoped to gain from the conversation or were you left scratching your head…much like Sheila?

Unfortunately, what is going on with Sheila is all too common.  In her situation, she is not even initiating a courageous conversation.  She will keep remaining stressed at the end of each month and does not take herself or the company to the next level of efficiency and success because she is not confronting the issue directly – to which there may be a very simple solution.  She will not know until she begins to have courageous conversations.  Furthermore, she will need to have them well to accomplish her goals.

There are 7 key steps that we believe could help elevate yourself and your organization to the next level.  Though the terms “difficult conversations” or “courageous conversations” can sometimes be thought of as current buzzwords, we encourage you to check out our steps and challenge you to put them into action.

  1. Identify your emotions and name them.  Why are you feeling stressed?  Is it from fear? Anger?

  2. Now that you have identified your emotions, remove them!  We know this can be difficult, but in order for you to be the leader you are meant to be, you must know how to differentiate between emotion-laden reactions and facts-based decision making to improve your company. 

  3. Lay out the issue.  In Sheila’s situation, she was struggling to confront Dave because it required her to lead across.  If we unpack the context, she actually felt uncomfortable when Dave called her “boss.”  She sees herself as a colleague but is gathering his sales report because her boss asks for it. 

  4. Consider what the other party’s emotions and motives might beMaybe Sheila is feeling angry because she begins to feel Dave doesn’t respect her by his delayed efforts.  BUT if she considers all the angles of Dave’s perspective, she might realize that Dave WANTS to be held accountable.  Maybe he needs support with the reports.  Does he realize how late submissions affect her performance review? 

  5. Determine the goal of the conversation.  Making a plan when you first begin having courageous conversations is very helpful.  Write down what outcome you would like to happen.  If Sheila does not have a clear purpose and formulate the right questions (seeking to understand), she could quickly lose Dave’s trust and promote even further tension. 

  6. Be clear and direct.  This step is so important but is often belabored because it is evident that one party feels uncomfortable or awkward.  If a conversation is direct and initiated well, it should not take a long time. 

  7. Reflect on the conversation.  As you step away from confronting the courageous conversation, ask yourself what worked and what you might change next time.  Did you meet the outcome you desired for the conversation? 

The next day, Sheila sat in her office double checking all the reports for submission.  As she combed through her emails, she noticed that Dave’s report still wasn’t there.  She felt herself “going there” and stopped for a moment.  She had just rehearsed and written down her questions for this conversation last night.  “Knock, knock!?”  Dave waltzed past her door as he took a sip of his coffee.  “Hi Dave – I need to talk to you real quick.  Come on in.”

Remember, you can only advance forward to the most important tasks of expanding yourself and your company if you are not getting caught up on “stress” that does not have to exist.  Have a courageous conversation and do it well!

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