If we’re holding the meeting after the meeting, not talking to each other but rather talking about each other, hiding behind dirty yesses, not holding team members accountable… in short, avoiding hard conversations… then we are not being leaders. As Brenè says: Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things. But by definition, hard conversations are hard. They can be hard on the giver and hard on the receiver. As smart as experience has made us, intellectual insight, “I know avoiding this conversation is only going to make it worse when we finally have it” does not always translate into behavioral change. Why? Because emotions most often hijack intellect.
Enter the assortment of books on how to have hard conversations. Today’s blog will focus on Susan Scott’s (2004), Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life. It’s an old one, but a good one. According to Scott, one of the greatest gifts we can give another is the purity of our attention. When you think of a fierce conversation, think passion, integrity, authenticity, collaboration. Think cultural transformation. Think leadership. To mine for greater clarity, improved understanding, and impetus for change, ask your [hard conversation partner] to do the following and listen carefully to the responses.
Step 1: Identify your most pressing issue.
Step 2: Clarify the issue.
Step 3: Determine the current impact.
Step 4: Determine the future implications.
Step 5: Examine your personal contribution to the issue.
Step 6: Describe the ideal outcome.
Step 7: Commit to specific action(s).
I also found Scott’s 16 questions to use with one-on-ones. They can be used with colleagues as well as direct reports.
- What has become clear since we last met?
- What is the area that if you made an improvement, would give you and others the greatest return on time, energy, and dollars?
- What is currently impossible to do that, if it were possible, would change everything?
- What do you want to make happen in the next 3 months?
- What’s the most important decision you are facing?
- What topic are you hoping I won’t bring up?
- What area under your responsibility are you most satisfied with? Least satisfied?
- What part of your responsibilities are you avoiding right now?
- Who are your strongest team members? What are you doing to make sure they are happy and motivated?
- Who are your weakest team members? What is your plan for them?
- What conversations are you avoiding right now?
- What do you wish you had more time to do?
- What things are you doing that you would like to stop doing?
- If you were hired to consult with our company, what would you advise?
- If you were competing against our company, what would you do?
- What threatens your peace? Your health? Your personal fulfillment?
Weekly Challenge: Select 5 of Scott’s 16 questions. Put them into your own words if needed, and use in your next one-on-one,
Supporting Your Success!