Not long after entering management in the industry for which you have trained, you realize one skill you did not acquire in your education is the ability to have difficult conversations, or what I sometimes call courageous conversations. For the scope of this article I am referring to the leadership hat you wear or leave in the closet in your day-to-day functioning. These conversations often involve issues or behaviors related to staff, clients, associates, or partners. I find that the majority of managers avoid these difficult moments by focusing on what they were trained for and enjoy. We wishfully hope, “perhaps they will go away if I ignore it long enough.” Unfortunately, left unaddressed, they often only get worse and impact both the morale and performance of the company and its team. Rather than leaving the office with a sense of satisfaction each night, you go home ruminating and often grinding your teeth over an unaddressed issue. At this point, if you can not relate to what I am writing, consider yourself fortunate, and you can put this article in recycling. For those of you that exclaim, “That’s me!” read on.
Following are some tips for business success by getting unstuck and avoiding the serious consequences of avoiding the difficult conversation. First of all, can you identify the issue and person or persons that are involved, or have you avoided it so long you now call it normal?
I will list a few examples that I have encountered both in my own career and now as a consultant/coach in offices and corporations.
As leaders of the business, a different skill set is required to address the issues above. We are accustomed to completing skilled procedures and functions, being experts in our fields. With leadership and the development of people it’s an ongoing process that requires our continuing influence. We all recognize clients and they return to our company not only because of our great margins and great job done, but also because of the experience they encounter with our team. Following are the steps to short-circuit the toxic situation.
Take the time to develop a process that brings you as a manager to a place that puts light on the situation in an objective manner. Practice and refine a process that brings about action and results in growth. Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses in your leadership style. Commit to growth in this area, not unlike a continuing education course in your specializing field. Allow your brain to think objectively, and analyze the various components, much like we approach a complex project or contract. View moving forward and look at your steps as win-win. We are not doing anyone any favors by ignoring these issues…everyone suffers. Understanding and developing our leadership skills is one of the most underdeveloped skills in our tool box. It impacts every facet of our office from profitability to the enjoyment of our profession.
I am including a reading list to enhance your lifelong learning. Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments.
Dr. Jim Schroeder is the Founder of Leadership by Design. He has been writing about leadership and organizational growth for over 30 years.
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