Difficult conversations

May 11, 2020

Changing your mindset and discarding your assumptions allows you to start a dialogue to improve performance, relationships, and model the type of leadership that you want to see in others. Enter “difficult conversations” into the Amazon search for books and you’ll find no fewer than 3,000 options listed. Obviously, a lot has been written about the art and science of addressing difficult subjects. The bottom line is, difficult conversations are just that – difficult. But avoiding them, delaying them, or simply refusing to have them is not going to make them go away. What if you shifted your perspective from having a difficult conversation to an opportunity to learn more about a situation? Changing your mindset and discarding your assumptions about a particular situation allows you to start a dialogue to improve performance, relationships, and model the type of leadership that you want to see in others. Next time you prepare for what you think might be a difficult conversation remember this:
  1. Everyone craves feedback – it helps us grow. A recent study by Office Vibe revealed 65 percent of employees wish they had more feedback. This goes beyond employee surveys or performance reviews. Employees want to feel valued and engaged. One of the best ways to let someone know that they matter is by showing an interest in their performance. Positive feedback reinforces that someone has noticed their contribution. Discussions regarding performance improvement are important because team members can’t change something if they don’t know they’re not meeting expectations. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to provide all sorts of feedback early and often.
  2. Difficult conversations provide insight into your own blindspots. As leaders we must make a commitment to improve ourselves. When we become aware of our own shortcomings, making necessary adjustments will demonstrate our ability to recognize and change behavior. Failure to acknowledge that a change in you is necessary could create resentment and can be detrimental to both your team and your future career. Demonstrating the ability to change ourselves results in greater trust in us and our teams.
  3. Having difficult conversations eliminates misunderstandings and sets everyone up for success. The benefit of not avoiding or delaying feedback is that with practice, giving feedback becomes easier. Not only do you model the type of leadership that benefits everyone on your team, you become a champion of change, associated with improving communication and performance.
  4. Being able to navigate positive and negative situations creates leaders. A leader who is able to successfully and consistently deliver both negative and positive feedback can make a huge difference between success and failure – not only to subordinates but to peers, clients, and superiors as well. Understanding how to effectively prepare and execute feedback creates a workplace culture that invites meaningful conversations, where everyone can be heard, and produce more mutually beneficial solutions.
If you’d like to read more about effectively executing difficult conversations and you don’t want to review the more than 3,000 titles on Amazon, I recommend Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott. This book provides the data and framework to have productive, difficult conversations – reminding us all that you don’t have to choose between being a pushover or a jerk. Radical candor is all about caring personally and challenging directly, while getting feedback to improve your leadership and providing guidance that helps others grow. Kristine Barr develops and implements GHT’s firmwide programs for project management, scheduling, resource management, budgeting, construction phase services, and staff training. She provides critical project and client coordination that ensures workload and deliverables stay on track. Offering seasoned experience in engineering, construction, and project management operations, Kristine is recognized as a leader in the field of program management. Kristine is a Senior Associate with GHT Limited, a leading MEP engineering firm in the Washington, D.C. region. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia and enjoys urban exploring in and around Washington, D.C. and visiting the dog park with her furry BFF, Chuchu. She can be reached at kbarr@ghtltd.com. Click here to read the full issue.

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