Had any courageous conversations lately?
Leadership is mostly about managing change. It is easy to lead from the front when you’ve got a following breeze. It’s when you run out of wind that it gets tough: your business slumps; office politics take a turn for the worse; there’s a problem with your best client; you top sales team is getting poached.
These are normal business issues but sorting them out can mean changing the way things are done. Unfortunately, that also often means changing behavior – either yours or someone else’s.
Feel the shudder
People back off from these conversations. They require courage because there is fear around them. We are not sure how they will turn out. Confronting them means stepping up to the plate. What if it’s a step too far?
It never seems to be the right time either. The danger is it never will be – you never get around to it. That kind of delay means the situation festers. Your management authority deteriorates as a result.
Here are some things to remember in difficult situations:
- Be a real people pleaser. The fact is some people will respect you for addressing an issue. They may even be pleased. They won’t be if you don’t.
- This is business, so commercial logic applies. Focus on what’s best for the organization – that is, everyone – not a particular individual. Stick to the commercial facts, not the individual emotions.
- Lacking confidence? That’s good because your view might be wrong. Start a conversation that honestly states how you see things and ask others if they see it that way. Get more minds working on it than just yours.
- Feeling vulnerable? Also good. Real conversations happen when there is trust. People will trust you more if you are willing to expose your own vulnerability. They will feel safe about expressing their honest opinions in return. Your chance of a constructive dialogue will improve as a result.
- You are not the world’s greatest leader yet. You leadership style will always be a work in progress. Don’t miss the chance to work on it.
All these things will help you exercise authentic leadership. Rather than having surface conversations that don’t lead to any meaningful change, people will engage. You have a chance to encourage real shifts in behavior.
Is there an issue you have been avoiding?
Try addressing it. Acknowledge that some messages are tough to receive, or tough to deliver, or both. Those conversations are part of responsible management. Enter them knowing that that is your job. Stick to the facts. Explain how you see it. Make it clear it’s your responsibility to find a solution. It doesn’t have to be yours. It might turn out to be theirs.
Even if you don’t enjoy it, a courageous conversation is something to feel positive about, not something to avoid. Not only will you be responsibly handling a management issue, you will be building your leadership skills. They will be even better the next time something comes up – which is also good because invariably, something will.