Does Tough Conversations Well

This week’s post was written by Scott Peterson.

Tough Conversations

“I love having tough conversations! They are fun and are exciting!” (Said no one ever.)

Having tough conversations with your direct reports, peers, clients and supervisors is hard, no doubt. As a leader, having those tough conversations and doing them well is also one of your most important responsibilities.

Why is it so important?

  • It is one of the best ways to align people and teams.
  • It builds trust, since people know they can talk to you about anything (and that you really want them to succeed).
  • It sets the stage for a healthy and productive culture.
  • Because not having tough conversations is the most common cause of leadership failures

Two tips for how to do tough conversations well:
1. Lean in.
2. Stay in the “sweet spot” during the conversation.

Lean In:  This one is simple – just do it! Take time to prepare for the tough conversation and assume the best of the other person. During the conversation, stay in the final element — the Sweet Spot.

Sweet Spot:  During the stress of a tough conversation, we have a tendency to fall into one of two categories: Fight or Flight.

  • When we got into fight mode, we want to convince the other person that they are wrong and we are right. We forget to listen, and we become judgmental.
  • When we go into flight mode, we want to avoid the situation or get out of it as quickly as possible. We do not state our thoughts or opinions.

The solution: the Sweet Spot. This is when we get it right. We lean in to those tough conversations. We find a good balance of being curious and being candid, and this is how we overcome falling into those fight or flight categories.

If you are a “fighter” – take time to ask questions, listen to the answers, and show empathy. If you are a “flighter” (yes, I’m making up words) – take a chance and share your honest thoughts/opinions without feeling like you have to prove yourself

Tough conversations can be a mixed bag for me. Some who know me well would tell you I have a strength for having productive, tough conversations. I stay in the sweet spot by being curious and truly believing the best of people. BUT (you knew it was coming), I don’t like having these conversations. To be perfectly honest, they can stress me out. Over the years, I have learned to recognize that stress as a signal – a signal to lean in to the tough conversation. Don’t avoid it. For the most part, these conversations are a relief to both people because they often have similar concerns and emotions. Just getting the topic on the table is a big step and a win.

If we can have productive tough conversations, we will be leading the Interstates Way!
Scott Peterson


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