Authentic, sometimes difficult, conversations are part of the brand DNA at my company and are not only encouraged, but also expected when you have a group of passionate believers working together. This approach can be a tad intimidating for newcomers and non-confrontational types; it’s also a common challenge for some business owners. But here’s why it’s important: if you can’t have real conversations with your co-workers, staff, manager, owner and clients, you will be powerless to create change. The result is an unhappy workplace, business (or life) and a crumbling culture that’s being chipped away by low morale, high turnover, poor communication and weak performance.
So are you a courageous tiger that is able to confidently have a difficult conversation? Or are you a chicken, in that you prefer to murmur, complain and squawk to the wrong people about who or what (in your opinion) is wrong or makes you unhappy. Hard for me to get my head around, but some people are wired this way. Having fierce conversations shows that you care, but they are not easy for all. Here are some tips to guide you on the “why and how:”
1. Don’t avoid it.
Problems don’t age well. A lot of people make the mistake of keeping quiet and hoping things improve, but oftentimes the problem only snowballs. Be proactive.
2. Never Wing It.
Plan out what you want to discuss, where and when the conversation should take place and think through the issue and acceptable resolutions. Be direct, honest, transparent and timely.
3. Be mindful of your language.
People sometimes say and do things that lead to increased anxiety and defensiveness. But when you don’t keep your emotions in check, you can derail the conversation. Be careful to present yourself in a way that doesn’t come off as accusatory.
4. Be open to alternate realities.
Your perception of the situation may not be the only one. One-way communication is not effective. Engage in active listening. It can sometimes be difficult to effectively articulate the “what, when, where” part of the conversation. I love these language prompts developed by Marcia Wieder, the CEO and founder of Dream University to clarify:
When you...[Tell them what they did and be specific.]
I feel/felt...[Share in a non-threatening way how it made you feel, such as disappointed, angry or hurt.]
The impact that it has/had on me is/was...[Authentically share how what they did impacted you or others.]
My request...[Tell them what you expect them to do.]
What I want you to know...[Complete with praise and positive reinforcement.] This is the hardest, but the most important of all. Believe the best in people and let them know you care.
Communicating clearly, effectively and respectfully creates teams who are happy, who love coming to work and who are empowered to do their best every day. Happy employees create a good experience for guests, and happy guests are good for business. Now go be a fierce tiger! Grrrr!