Strong Leaders Serve with Teri Schmidt

21. Tips for Handling the Difficult Conversations that Leaders Must Have

October 14, 2020 Teri Schmidt
21. Tips for Handling the Difficult Conversations that Leaders Must Have
Strong Leaders Serve with Teri Schmidt
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Strong Leaders Serve with Teri Schmidt
21. Tips for Handling the Difficult Conversations that Leaders Must Have
Oct 14, 2020
Teri Schmidt

Send us a Text Message.

“I believe that words are strong, that they can overwhelm what we fear when fear seems more awful than life is good.” -Andrew Solomon

As a leader you will have an opportunity to engage in difficult conversations.  If you're not, I dare say that you're not leading.

Especially during current times, we need leaders who have the courage to move through difficult conversations with humility, trust and confidence. 

Whether your difficult conversation centers on boosting an employee's performance or simply talking with a relative with different political beliefs over a holiday dinner, the tips shared in this episode will help turn difficult conversation into constructive results.

Links shared:

Connect with us!
IG: @wearemomsthatlead
FB: @momsthatlead

Show Notes: https://momsthatlead.com/podcast/21

Want to chat more with me about discovering your purpose, crafting your leadership vision, or motivating and leading yourself or your team? Schedule a free introductory leadership coaching session with me by going to https://momsthatlead.com/connect.

Check out our resources to help you grow as a leader and a mom:  https://momsthatlead.com/resources



Connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/teri-m-schmidt/

Get 1-on-1 leadership support from Teri here: https://www.strongertoserve.com/coaching

Set up an intro call with Teri: https://calendly.com/terischmidt/discoverycall

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

“I believe that words are strong, that they can overwhelm what we fear when fear seems more awful than life is good.” -Andrew Solomon

As a leader you will have an opportunity to engage in difficult conversations.  If you're not, I dare say that you're not leading.

Especially during current times, we need leaders who have the courage to move through difficult conversations with humility, trust and confidence. 

Whether your difficult conversation centers on boosting an employee's performance or simply talking with a relative with different political beliefs over a holiday dinner, the tips shared in this episode will help turn difficult conversation into constructive results.

Links shared:

Connect with us!
IG: @wearemomsthatlead
FB: @momsthatlead

Show Notes: https://momsthatlead.com/podcast/21

Want to chat more with me about discovering your purpose, crafting your leadership vision, or motivating and leading yourself or your team? Schedule a free introductory leadership coaching session with me by going to https://momsthatlead.com/connect.

Check out our resources to help you grow as a leader and a mom:  https://momsthatlead.com/resources



Connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/teri-m-schmidt/

Get 1-on-1 leadership support from Teri here: https://www.strongertoserve.com/coaching

Set up an intro call with Teri: https://calendly.com/terischmidt/discoverycall

"I believe that words are strong. That they can overwhelm what we fear. When fear seems more awful than life is good." Do you agree with these words that Andrew Solomon said? Then this episode's for you! Welcome to Episode 20 one of the Moms that Lead podcast. This is our second episode in our series on the Muck of Leadership. In other words, those kind of muddy valleys that sometimes we get stuck in or the parts of leadership that maybe we don't enjoy as much as thinking about the high points of leadership, like defining our leadership vision, developing those around us and reaching success and our goals. So today we're going to talk about a topic that is most relevant for those of you who are in our Grow phase of leadership development. And that is when you've defined your purpose, you're pretty comfortable with your leadership vision, but you're deep into leadership and you are needing to practice some of the skills that help you with situations that you face day to day leading those around you. At a time when there is so much noise in our world and so much shouting over each other, having the confidence and courage as leaders to have difficult conversations is more critical than ever, both for our own wellbeing and for that of those that we lead. Although to be honest, I wouldn't say I've necessarily mastered the skill. However I have learned practical tips from experts and from my own trial and error that have made difficult conversations, whether they're performance conversations with employees or political conversations around the Thanksgiving table, just a little bit easier. I'll share those tips today in hopes that they help you to go through these challenges and spread the power of respectful conversations. But first in case you're new here here's the intro.

Teri Schmidt:

Hey there. Are you ready to jump off the hamster wheel and finally listened to that voice inside that says you were meant for more. Are you ready to replace overwhelmed with calm and clarity? Self-doubt with confidence and mom guilt with connection. Then you're in the right place. I made this podcast just for you. Welcome to the Moms that Lead podcast, where we know that moms have a unique ability to be world changers. And that leadership is not about position. But instead just like John Quincy Adams said,"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more than you are a leader." I'm Teri Schmidt, your host and leadership mentor, determined to bring you the inspiration, motivation, and practical tips to help you live your best life. I'm a corporate leader and coach turn nonprofit founder. My family's journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon changed my life forever. And I want to be your friend on the journey to gain the clarity, confidence, and connection that I gained from that experience. So if you're ready to ditch mom guilt and activate your strengths, let's jump in.

All right, so I mentioned that I'm not necessarily an expert in having difficult conversations. Maybe what I really mean by that is that I would prefer to avoid them at all costs. I am naturally conflict-avoidant. And to be honest, I have a lot of fear around them. That is why I continue to try to hone this skill. And I hope that you will continue to hone your skills too. Because as the quote that I shared at the beginning of this episode states, respectful conversation has so much power to transform our communities. Now, there are many types of difficult conversations, but the two that we're really going to focus on today with some of our examples are first a performance conversation: now that may be a conversation that you're having with an employee, or even as a volunteer leader, you may be needing to have with some volunteers. But basically it centers around talking to someone who is not necessarily living up to expectations. The second type of conversation that we'll focus in on is one that I think that we've all had. And that is a conversation with someone that we don't necessarily agree with. That may be around a holiday dinner table. It may be just in our communities. But it's a conversation that needs to be had. It's a conversation that can help us to reduce the polarization that is so prevalent in today's communities. Now because they're both difficult conversations, there's a ton of overlap. But I'll share with you how each of the tips that I have apply to each situation. So let's jump right in. Now first, I will say the keys to any difficult conversation, even if you don't listen to the rest of the episode, listen to these key ingredients that you will need to have to experience success with any difficult conversation, and they are trust, humility and confidence in your intent and in their intent. We'll get more into those as we get through the tips that I have for how to plan for a difficult conversation and how to actually execute a conversation when you're in the middle of it. Let's start with the planning. Now you may not have a chance to plan out every difficult conversation that you're faced with. Sometimes they just come right at you. But taking some time even when you don't have a difficult conversation that's coming up to plan out how you might react to one that comes to you can be very helpful. So let's go into that. When you are planning that difficult conversation, I think there are really three steps. First of all: have clear goals. What messages, both spoken and unspoken do you want them to leave your conversation with? Sometimes it can help if you refer back to your purpose and to your leadership vision work that we've talked about in past episodes. So, for example, if you are having a performance conversation with someone, maybe with an employee who is not necessarily meeting your expectations for what they should be doing in their job in terms of your goals. Of course, you definitely want to make sure that you reiterate or clarify your expectations and you want to make sure that they understand how maybe their current performance is not meeting your expectations. But in addition to that, Especially if part of your leadership vision as to build other people up, you also want to communicate in that conversation, either unspoken or spoken, is that you support them... That you care about their success. And that you have confidence that they can meet those expectations. On the other hand, if you're having a conversation with someone that you disagree with on another topic. Your goals for that conversation may be that they understand your position and why you feel the way that you do. But you also want to make sure that they know that you respect them and that you value their opinion. And that can come both through spoken words and through unspoken actions and how you handle yourself in the conversation. So take some time to think about what your goals are for the conversation before going into it. So that you can be very clear about them when you're speaking and with how you're acting in the conversation. The second tip for planning for these difficult conversations is to make sure that you're aware of the facts and the stories that you may have created. So sometimes we see a particular behavior and we make up a story in our mind about why the person's acting the way that he or she is acting. And oftentimes it's not completely true. So for example, maybe you have an employee who is not doing a good job. And your story that you've created could be that she just can't do it; she's incapable of meeting your expectations; or maybe she's really unmotivated and you shouldn't have hired her in the first place. But the actual story might be that she's going through something in her personal life and that is causing the performance problems that you're seeing. Thinking about the other topic, if we're talking to someone that we disagree with, maybe the story that you've created in your mind is that they've been deceived by an evil plot that they just don't understand how they're being manipulated to believe what they believe. When in reality, they might have a good reason based on their history and what has happened in their life that they have the opinion that they do. So make sure you're aware of both the facts, what you observe, what you hear; but also the stories that you've created about those facts in your mind. And the final tip for planning these difficult conversations is to have a plan for your emotions. So I was recently listening to a podcast episode of the Build ing a Story Brand podcast with Don Miller. And he was interviewing Hal Runkel of Scream-Free. Hal has programs and books called Scream-Free Parenting, Scream-Free Marriage, some that I'm definitely going to check out, but they were talking a lot about this. Having a plan for handling your emotions. Think about what some tactics are that you can use in the conversation to help you calm down instantly. So a couple of questions that Hal recommends: if someone comes to you with something that, you know, kind of pushes your buttons. Can you use the phrase or question,"tell me more about that?" to give you a little bit of time to calm down and to more fully understand what they're saying? Or you can also say,"could you say that in another way?" Using those questions again, gives us some time to calm our heart rate down a little bit and think a little bit more rationally about what was just said. And finally, if you're having this conversation on social media, which again, isn't the best way to have a conversation, one benefit that it does afford is that you can step away for a little bit. Maybe you type up a response, but don't send it or don't hit publish and come back when your emotions aren't running quite as hot. So those are the three steps that if you're afforded the luxury of planning for a conversation, I strongly recommend that you go through. Have clear goals. Make sure that you're aware of the stories that you've created about the facts. And have a plan for your emotions. Now let's get into the fun phase, the execute phase. So when you are in the middle of the conversation, what are some tips for going about that in a productive way? Now, there are many resources that I've learned from and use throughout my career that get really into specific tactics and stories. One of those being Crucial Conversations. There's a book titled Crucial Conversations, and there's a whole training program that we've used at some of my past jobs. So I highly recommend if you are looking for really in-depth tactics to check that out. But we're going to keep it simple today because when these difficult conversations are happening, sometimes they come at us at a very fast pace and it's really important that we're able to remember a few tactics that can help us to have successful conversation instead of ones that are destructive. So, you know me, big fan of alliteration. All of these tips start with the letter C. To hopefully help you to remember them when that conversation comes at you. So the first C is comfort. What I mean by that is make sure you are establishing a safe space for the conversation. Now, hopefully this work has already been done, hopefully because you lead as an authentic leader. People feel comfortable coming to you even when they disagree with you or when you are delivering a tough message to them. It really gets back to how you inspire trust through your leadership. And if you want some tips on working on that go back and check out Episode 6 when we talked all about inspiring trust and those you lead. Another way that you can help people feel comfortable is making sure that they are very clear about your goals for the conversation upfront. The second C is curiosity. In other words, seek first to understand. Ask questions. And this works regardless of if you are having a conversation where you were talking to someone about their performance or you are having a conversation maybe with someone that you don't agree with politically. Ask questions. Be curious. Try to understand their story and contrast it with the story that you've already created in your mind. If you're having a conversation with someone that you disagree with, I really love what Ashlee Eiland says in her book, HumanKind. In chapter 22, she says, Politics aside, have we lost our ability to submit to another story? To yield to someone else's perspective, even if only temporarily, to try to honor an experience that we didn't live? To surrender our urgency and our expertise and hear a perspective that we've perhaps never cared to welcome? How can you, through your curiosity, honor the other person's experience and just put your strong feelings and your experiences and what you view as your expertise on hold for a little bit. I love those words because it really reminds me to be curious. And to honor someone else's experience and their story. And to put my experiences and what I view as my expertise and how I am right on hold for a little bit to hear about their experiences, their expertise, so that we can come to a place at least of mutual understanding even if we can't get to a place of mutual agreement. So be curious. The third tip for when you're in deep, in a difficult conversation, is clarity. Be clear with your points. Now I know as a conflict avoidant person, this can be really difficult. Sometimes I like to dance around what I'm trying to say. Do you do the same thing? Sometimes we think that we're softening the message by not directly saying what needs to be said. And in reality, that's actually making it worse. So again, we talked about planning the conversations and having clear goals. That's the first step. But it's also about having the courage to speak your truth. And if you, again, want to review some tips for finding that voice and sharing that voice check out Episode 9, where we talked about how to find your voice, even when everyone has a very strong opinion. And the fourth tip for getting through a difficult conversation is continuation. Planning for how you might continue the conversation. So, what are your next steps? Again, if we're in a work setting or a volunteer leadership setting, and you're talking about a performance conversation, the next steps might look like: what are your performance expectations going forward? What do you expect them to do on specific projects? And how will you check in with them to make sure that they are meeting those expectations? But also, how that person can come to you for support? And if your conversation has uncovered any stories that you weren't aware of, how are you going to incorporate what you've learned into how you lead that person in the future? If on the other hand, you are sitting around the Thanksgiving table and having a difficult conversation about politics, continuation might look like speaking to what you learned and what you appreciated about what the other person said. And not only that, but how the two of you can keep the channels of communication open instead of descending into blame and avoidance and just not talking about that topic. So in total, I've talked about seven tips today. I know that's a lot. So let me hone in on what I think is most important based on my experiences of having difficult conversations. The first part is having the courage as the leader to be able to be confident in your position. And confident enough to ask questions that help you to learn more about the other person's position. That comes from knowing your purpose. It comes from knowing the combination that we talk about for your purpose of your values, your strengths and your passion. And to be confident in the value that that brings to the table. Because once you're confident in that, then that brings you the courage to speak up because you know that you're bringing something to the table that needs to be brought because you were given that specific purpose for a reason. Secondly, I think through our leadership and inspiring trust, creating that safe space is what is going to get us through these difficult conversations, all the work that you did upfront is going to make these difficult conversations, not quite as difficult. And thirdly, in terms of the planning piece, I really think if you can come up with some tactics that you can use to deescalate your own emotions in the conversation. If you can think about that before you even get in the conversation that is something that you can fall back on to keep the conversation going when you would prefer just to run away. And finally the curiosity piece. Life is so much more interesting and so much easier when we honestly seek to understand other people. Seek to understand their motives. And seek to understand what they believe. So hopefully these starting points will make you a little bit more comfortable leading through your next difficult conversation, whether that be at work or with your family. Let's commit together to stop avoiding these conversations and start engaging in them. So that we can spread understanding, respect and self-improvement throughout the communities in which we lead.

Teri Schmidt:

Until next time, lead with love