Last week Cathy Lange, Partner and Executive Coach with Human Capital Advisors, facilitated a workshop with the Fairfax Chamber’s Next Gen Council Leadership Team surrounding difficult conversations. The group discussed why we typically avoid these conversations. In a highly interactive session, participants explored their own personal reasons for avoiding difficult conversations.
The group also explored the costs of not having these conversations—losing the respect of others who are waiting for the boss to take on an employee who is consistently late for work, or losing a good employee who didn’t know how their actions were negatively impacting others; if only their boss had the courage to talk to them so they could correct their behavior. Or, two colleagues not able to work well together because resentment builds up over internal competition. And, to the surprise of some, sometimes people really don’t know the ground rules at work; they need to be told explicitly about work hours, appropriate attire, treating others with respect, etc. If these things are not addressed, productivity and team morale can be severely impacted.
Seeing the positive side—how we can strengthen relationships, a colleague will feel like they matter when a peer has the courage to confront them, or solidify the team, because people trust the boss to give open and fair feedback. There are many reasons to overcome our fear, anger, or resentment and have the tough conversations, even when we are reluctant, or even afraid. However, participants understood that to advance in their careers this skill will “not be a nice-to-have, but a necessity.”
Cathy provided a structure for the difficult conversation.
The 5 Step Process
Step 1: Self-exploration: The process starts with the individual exploring their motivations and purpose to have the talk. What is their intent? What part have they contributed to the situation—what part do they need to own, and what is on the other? Ultimately, self honesty makes a huge difference in the outcome. The individual needs to uncover any hidden agenda or ill feelings before diving in; and must have clarity to overcome the resistance.
Step 2: Inquiry: The individual asks probing, open-ended questions, being curious about how the person sees the situation. What is the person’s viewpoint and how did they think about it?
Step 3: Acknowledgement: The individual then, using effective listening skills, acknowledges the person’s point of view with verbal and other signals that demonstrate they hear what the person is saying. A sincere desire to understand the other’s perspective is crucial. Acknowledgement does not mean agreement. It does give the person the sense of being heard. This can open the space for the next step.
Step 4: Advocacy: Having gotten a deeper understanding of the person’s perspective, the individual expresses their point of view—how he or she sees the situation. It can include expressions of feelings about the impact or other ways of conveying how the person’s actions have effected them or others.
Step 5: Problem Solving: After each has been able to speak from their perspective the goal is to move to solving the problem, considering options that would work, and then putting them into action.
After learning this model, the Council Leadership Team participated in a lively discussion on how to handle specific situations. With a couple of role plays under their belt, and the support of their peers and Coach Cathy, the Next Gen Leaders began to feel more empowered to have a tough talk, and make it work.
To help each other, they exchanged cards so they could reach out for support. Cathy provided resources for them to utilize, and offered for any of them to call her if they needed some personalized help. To learn more about Next Gen, visit our website. To learn more about Human Capital Advisors, visit their website.
Partner and Practice Director
Human Capital Advisors, LLC
Executive Advisory/Leadership Coaching
Organizational Effectiveness/Talent Acquisition