How to Have a Difficult Conversation

When I ask leaders why they’re not telling people what they need to know, the most consistent response I get is “She or he didn’t ask.”

Quite frankly that’s a cop-out.

Yeah sure–ideally everyone would be ASKING for feedback.

If you’re not asking, start asking now. It may be the only thing standing between you and the truth.

But, if you’re the one not giving feedback, think again before holding back.

Your Team Needs You to Tell Them the Truth

You team needs to hear what you don’t want to say. The difficult conversations are almost always often the most important.

“You’re consistently not getting promoted because….”

“When you start an email that way…”

“If you bathed more…”

“Wearing those Google glasses all day long (including at the elegant dinner party) isn’t helping your brand…”

Confident, humble leaders have difficult conversations because…

  • they care so deeply
  • they want people to grow
  • they know it’s not about them
  • they care more about helping than protecting themselves.

Lessons From The Discomfort Zone

I spoke with Marcia Reynold’s about her new book, The Discomfort Zone:  How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs and asked her for her best advice for leaders having difficult conversations with the people they lead. Here are a few of her tips.

  • Step back and consider, “What does this person really need from me?”
  • Know that your job is not to just develop skills, but develop minds. Ask difficult questions that really make them think.
  • Know that this will be uncomfortable and that there may be an initial negative reaction. That doesn’t mean you aren’t helping, or they won’t be grateful later.
  • If they get emotional, be quiet. Let them experience and breathe through that emotion. Know that’s all part of the process.
  • If you’re trying to help someone get unstuck, ask
    • What’s the worse thing that can happen if you do ____?
    • What’ s the likelihood that could happen?
    • How is that worse than what’s happening now?

She adds, “For true shifts in thinking and behavior to occur, you must be willing to challenge a person’s beliefs, interrupt his patterns, and short-circuit the conviction to his logic even when it feels uncomfortable.  This is a Discomfort Zone conversation.”