Do you love to have hard conversations?
Then you’re in the overwhelming majority of people (as well as almost every friend I have).
I don’t like to have difficult conversations, but they are critical to both leaders and those aspiring to lead in their organization.
I recently heard a career coach touch on this topic with great insight.
One of the aspects she emphasized most was positioning the conversation as about the person hearing you, and protecting the company’s interests, versus any injustice you may feel you experienced. Therefore, if there’s a promotion you understood you would receive but didn’t, you don’t charge in at the peak of your emotions listing the ways in which you were wronged. Rather, after careful consideration and practice with a trusted advisor, you could share how you understand the company’s value proposition, and then identify how the decision could detrimentally impact an internal team or external client or marketplace perception.
When you prepare for difficult conversations, and preparation with a business savvy sounding board is key, always begin with developing positive messages. It’s important to stay positive and calm and professional. Consider who you will be speaking with and what their key interests are. How you frame a message to a company President will be different than when you’re speaking with a team staff member. Align your interests with your audience and the company.
For example, if a long time contractor used sexually inappropriate conversation, then you are responsible for having a conversation with both the contractor and, if you are not the supervisor, the boss. Highlight you are having the conversation because you want to protect the company’s reputation and their core values. Raise the issue in a one on one setting so the recipient of the advice is less likely to jump to a defensive position.
Regardless of the situation, having the difficult conversations position you as a thoughtful and determined leader. This quote from Sheryl Sandberg sums up how critical having these well framed conversations can be to your leadership potential – don’t be a hedger:
When psychologists study power dynamics,
they find that people in low-power positions are more hesitant to share their views
and often hedge their statements when they do.
Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In