Essential Elements of a Close-Knit Team: When is the Right Time to Have a Hard Conversation?
"Now would be fine" is the answer we preach and teach.
Of course this is an easy answer for someone who has authority or position power.
But what about at the other end of the spectrum?
Our experiences suggest the answer is often...."NEVER is just fine by me!"
So how do we bridge this gap?
It starts with organizing and prioritizing your own schedule and continues in how you share your choices with others.
Geoffrey Moore who has successfully advised Marc Benioff at Salesforce and Satya Nadella at Microsoft recently wrote about how the word "priority" entered our language in only the singular form. He is suggesting that the CEO needs to set THE PRIORITY and that the team should either buy in or leave.
Talk about a hard conversation.
If you are leading a smaller team, like a Jeffrey Bezos "two pizza" team, or in military parlance a sub unit you may have a very clear directive from above, but there is still the challenge of managing the disparate tasks.
The team at www.thearmyleader.co.uk have a series of excellent posts about small unit cohesion and execution. The articles are current and written by those who have recently been in active military service.
No matter where you sit on the power curve when you organize and prioritize your tasks and share them with your superior you are having a hard conversation with yourself first, this is a habit worth honing.
We use the following template as a constraint to develop our planning abilities.
DEALING WITH THE "YEAH BUT"
Right about now, you, the reader may have already had an internal dialogue that is the mother of all "keep it the same" traps.
You said, "yeah but in my case it's different" and you moved on from seriously considering changing or adapting your actions or behaviors.
Guess what, your people might be saying that to themselves when YOU are talking!
"Yeah But" is what creates the conversational graveyard between people on a team.
Inside of tribes all over the world one of the first things leaders do after they control the dress code is they control who talks and what they say.
It is this command and control style that starts and feeds the conversational graveyard that starts to undermine the teams ability to trust each other and effectively execute the leaders plans.
In our last post "Stop Saying Stupid Sh*t Outloud" Trevor Mowad described how culture is built or destroyed by words and phrases shared out loud and the 7 to 10x impact of negative language on a team.
Three phrases that can help anyone who is challenged by hard conversations.
Here are three phrases that low power people can employ to help them engage in having hard conversations early and to help clean out their teams conversational graveyard.
"That is interesting, can you say more about that."
Say this when a statement is made, like "There is no way, we are going to win that business".
The response to your question will typically be the "why" behind the statement.
Once you have the why, you can get a window into the logic or emotion that the other person is carrying into that topic.
"I hear you."
This is another conversational enabler and is often best used when someone is being dramatic or dogmatic in making a point.
Conversational graveyards can create a great deal of tension for certain people and then instead of talking things out, they act them out or worse yet, they blurt them out.
Your empathetically stated "I hear you" can really land and take the air out of the balloon. Frustrated people sometimes don't need agreement as much as they need to feel heard.
"That's the easy part, can we talk about the hard part?"
This phrase is a lane changer, or kind of like putting the clutch in so you can shift gears.
It is best delivered slowly and then you should pause for a few seconds to let the other side know you are going to bring up something that may not be agreed to yet.
Understanding these phrases and then putting them into your conversational tool belt take time and practice. If you are looking to learn more about these topics we have two book recommendations.
The first is the gold standard going back decades by the team at Vital Smarts Inc. "Crucial Conversations, Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High" has sold millions of copies over the decades and is still as relevant as ever.
A more recent offering from retired FBI negotiator Chris Voss is "Never Split the Difference" and while the title connotates that you will learn negotiating tips, the first thing you learn is a mindset and tool kit for entering into a conversation where the outcome is in doubt and therefore could be unsafe or hard.
Regardless of your role as leader or follower we hope that we have enabled you with a few more tools to answer our title's question with a resilient and patient...NOW WOULD BE FINE.
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