Stop having ?challenging conversations?

And start working on the quality of your relationships!

Challenging conversations don’t have to be a challenge! In fact, the focus on the challenge avoids the real issue, which is the quality of the relationship you have with your team. If the relationship, with your staff, is superficial then you can expect conversations to also be superficial ? and conversations required at any deeper level will indeed be challenging. I could give you tips on managing conversations, at a superficial level, but I?d rather give you my top tips on improving the quality of your relationships.

Humans, in general, are lazy communicators. We like the sound of our own voice and we?re often too eager to tell people what we think. We expect people to listen to us but we rarely invest the time to really listen to them. We take the path of least resistance and in the process build only superficial relationships.

These relationships serve us until we need to address a concern around performance or personality. We wait, in the hope that these concerns will sort themselves out. We tolerate, more than we should, and when the concern reaches crisis point decide to have a single ?challenging conversation? ? filled with frustration and resentment and the relationship erodes a little further.

I love what Susan Scott writes about in her book Fierce Conversations. She says ?the conversation is the relationship. If the conversation stops, all of the possibilities for the relationship become smaller and all of the possibilities for the individuals in the relationship become smaller, until one day we overhear ourselves in midsentence, making ourselves smaller in every encounter, behaving as if we are just the space around our shoes, engage in yet another three-minute conversation so empty of meaning it crackles.?

To support the growth and integrity of your relationships through conversation, here are my top five tips:

  1. Have frequent and ongoing conversations with your staff ? don?t limit them to particular topics, just get talking.
  2. Learn as much as you can about your people ? ask lots of questions and avoid giving your opinion (unless they ask for it).
  3. Make sure your staff are clear on what is expected of them in their role ? constantly reinforce and never assume they know already.
  4. When addressing concerns discuss the behaviour and how it links to an objective or the impact it?s having on the team ? focus on the behaviour and avoid making your feedback about the person.
  5. Look at the part you?ve played, in tolerating a particular behaviour, and accept responsibility when having the conversation, e.g. ?I take responsibility for not addressing this concern earlier, I am committing to being more open and upfront about my expectations from now on?. Remember you get what you tolerate. If you accept certain behaviour and it doesn’t change then that’s YOUR problem, don?t make it about your staff.
?While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a business, a career, a marriage, or a life, and single conversation can.? ~ Susan Scott

Conversations that are avoided bubble away under the surface and do real damage to trust and the strength and resilience of a relationship over time. So, have the conversations regularly and authentically?and there will be no challenge to deal with!


Shelley Flett is a passionate leader with a keen focus on creating dynamic team environments through adaptable leadership. She is a leadership coach, trainer, facilitator, mentor and speaker who ignites vision and purpose in those she works with.

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