How to Have Hard Conversations

The ability to put tough issues on the table and deal with them directly is one factor that differentiates good companies from great companies, according to author Jim Collins. Virgin CEO Richard Branson says the ability to say what you mean and mean what you say is essential to success in business. Yet somehow, many of us struggle with direct, honest, difficult conversations. It’s often called Midwest nice, and it’s not a compliment.

Facing tough issues head-on is more than a communication issue, it’s a hearts and minds issue. So to help us better understand the problem and work through solutions, professional counselor, professor, and author Larry Pfaff led us through a discussion of “How to have Hard Conversations” at our 2nd-Friday event in Oct.

Since 1980, Larry has worked extensively in the area of career development, employee development and selection. To speak out, Larry told us we first must look inside ourselves. He challenged us to ask, “What’s holding me back?” And address that fear first. Once we understand the fear — and it’s associated risk — we can be more thoughtful and deliberate when we choose our words.

The situations may differ. We may find ourselves leading up and guiding managers and boards to face problems. Or we may be managing an employee — someone who reports to us — to change behavior. We may even be sharing unpopular news with colleagues. But if the issue is important, we owe it to ourselves to face it head-on. And our careers and reputations will be better when we do.

Check out Larry’s presentation in the PDF of his slides.