Any person in a leadership position in any organization is regularly at one end of a crucial conversation. A crucial conversation is when,

  • Stakes are high
  • Opinions differ
  • Emotions are strong

Sound familiar? People in leadership roles regularly have such conversations with a wide array of people, from shareholders to senior executives, to prospective customers, to employees, and other stakeholders. It is said that business is equally dependent on the human element of the workplace as it is on the final service or product.
At the heart of this human element is the importance of honoring the individual by fostering growth, respect, support, well-being, sense of belonging, and valuing all contributions.

This doesn’t negate the need nor importance of having crucial and often difficult conversations. It’s HOW these conversations are held that honor the person. Crucial business conversations control the outcome of roughly every action and every decision that is made in an organization.Clarity of communication is key in crucial interactions. Clear, direct open and honest are the required elements to approach crucial conversations, both at work as well as outside of work.

Great leaders know exactly what to say and how to say it depending on any particular situation. Here are 11 Critical Steps to consider:

  1. Start with heart and courage.
  2.  Reflect first: Ask yourself what you really want and what’s at stake.
  3.  From this place, decide how you want to be.
  4. Be observant and maintain self-awareness and high emotional intelligence.
  5. Create safety for the person to speak and ask questions.
  6. Master your story.
  7. Separate facts from story.
  8. State your goal and path.
  9. Explore the others’ path, be curious, ask questions, listen. Don’t jump to conclusions or make it personal.
  10.  Call time-out and re-engage with an agreement of how you want to be.
  11. Agree to a path to action.

Using these steps, great leaders can shift the dynamics of any discussion depending on the people involved or the subject matter. Managing your emotions during a conversation is a key part of effectively conducting crucial conversations. There isn’t a place for anger or chastising, no matter how upset you might be over the situation or how heated the other person becomes.

It is actually vital to keep your emotions out of the conversation and regardless of the subject matter, maintain a sense of calm and objectivity. Without self-awareness and practice, these are probably the most difficult. Practice. Be clear on the 11 Critical Steps. These are what make good leader a great one. If the conversation becomes too heated, then the pragmatic leader must be able to adjourn to another time.

Creating a safe and open environment ensures that the other person is comfortable to openly express their ideas which is essential for having a crucial conversation, especially in instances where there is a power dynamic gap between the participants of a conversation e.g. boss and subordinate. A leader must understand the significance of letting the other person feel comfortable in asking questions and bringing their concerns or ideas forward. This leads to beneficial resolutions for all involved. It requires treating the person with respect in your body language and your speech.

Having a crucial conversation is only possible if you are empathetic to the person, realize good intentions, and listen with humility to understand the other person’s perspective. With these as the foundation, and following the 11 Critical Steps, you’ll realize that crucial conversations aren’t that difficult. Once you embody the necessity of these and realize the beneficial outcomes, who knows? Soon, you will welcome them! Bring it on!

Based on:

Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when the stakes are high. Authors: Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler.; How to have difficult conversation