Monday, March 19, 2012

Holding Fierce Conversations

I attended an interesting session last week on how to hold fierce conversations. There were some really strong points made about how to go about dealing with conversations that we tend to put off holding for a number of reasons.
If you, as I do, tend to avoid these tough conversations here are some very good guidelines on how to prepare and how to use the right wording:

1. In team conversations, accept that there are different and sometimes competing realities.

Companies are often highly matrixed and there are so many silos - like airtight containers with no windows. There are also competing objectives. Sometimes there are power struggles. It is often more about ego and someone has to win.

Everyone owns a piece of the truth. It is up to us as managers and leaders to pivot our viewpoint and see all the multiple viewpoints so we can make best possible decisions.

2. It is up to us to encourage others to speak up at these meetings. Give them the space to talk by inviting them in to the conversation.

Say things like: "Help me see this from your perspective. What else can you add to this discussion?"

3. Some other strong questions to ask and good statements to make in a real consultative discussion with your team:

"The way I see the issue is as follows..."

"It is significant because .... is at stake"

"My ideal outcome is .... because...."

"What I have done so far is...."

"These are the options I am considering:..."

"Push back on anything I say that does not match your view of reality. Tell me what I am missing or not seeing clearly. Did I miss anything essential?"

"What would you do if you were in my shoes?"

"What values do we stand for and are there gaps between those values and how we in fact behave?"

"What is impossible for us to do that, if it were possible, would change everything?"

4. In one on one conversations, please avoid that dreadful feedback sandwich.... saying something positive with the negative sandwiched in-between. Rather, be upfront about the issue and avoid using the word, BUT.

Try to say what you have to say in the initial 60 seconds of the conversation and then listen and elaborate later:

Name the issue

Give an example of what you are saying - make it real and concrete and not a broad statement

Describe your emotions around the issue

Clarify why it is so important and what is at stake for you, the other person and the team

Identify your own contribution to the problem and apologise if appropriate

State how you wish to resolve the issue

Invite the other person to respond and say you will be listening closely to their point of view

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