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How to Have a Courageous Conversation

I believe the role of a leader is to create a high performance environment where success is inevitable. We achieve this by awakening possibility in people to deliver extraordinary results.

From time to time we need to have those courageous conversations! Times when we need to give challenging feedback, build awareness for the need for change, educate or have that tricky conversation.

To do this effectively the starting point has to be your intent. If your intent is to attack or hurt then no skills or techniques will achieve a great result. If your intent is to build awareness and responsibility to change then we are on the right track.

Courageous conversations need to be crafted. They need to be planned, prepared and conducted. A great starting point is to check your emotional state. If you are choosing to be angry or in a stress response mode with your logical brain switched off then you'll not create the best approach.

A good idea if you are frustrated is to write the conversation down exactly how you want to say it, but don't share it with anyone! Off load your frustration in secret! Once you've done that and left it for a while your logic will switch back on. Now is the time to plan and prepare.

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STAGE 1: Use Empathy

Spend time understanding the context, where they are coming from, their view of the world. A customer empathy map is a great tool to adapt and use to get you thinking and empathising.

Once you have completed it, what does it tell you? What comes up for you in terms of what you need to do?

STAGE 2: Be Absolutely Clear About the Issue

You need to be able to state it in a way that is concise and unambiguous. Linking the issue to the bigger picture such as purpose, goals and values can help.

STAGE 3: Compel Action

Think about how you can back up the issue with real data in a way that compels action. Can you use graphs, charts, customer feedback, or third party information? Using comparative data approaches is useful.

STAGE 4: Prepare For Emotion

Remember that when you present it they will go into fight or flight mode so be prepared for an emotional and protective response. Allow them to talk and just listen. Have a good level of dialogue with them and empathise with how they are feeling.

STAGE 5: Build a Solution Together

When you have had enough discussion and dialogue about the problem, it's time to switch to problem solving mode. Now is the time to build the solution together.

Together you need to explore the options to change. This is usually a mixture of coaching, mentoring, teaching and problem solving. Radiant Problem Solving is a great tool to use here.

STAGE 6: Agree Next Steps

Stage 6 is the time to agree the next steps and what each person is going to do. What support do they need from you? What barriers need removing? Agree a review time and date.

Handled this way your courageous conversations will engage and inspire people.

Have fun!


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About the author

Graham Wilson

Graham Wilson

I enjoy and specialise in teaching leadership skills, how to create winning strategies, how to build high performance cultures. Outcomes and results are the most important measures for me!