The temptation to avoid conflict is human nature, but sometimes leaders and their teams MUST have difficult conversations to move forward and achieve necessary growth. Dr. Marcia Reynolds , a workplace behavioral scientist and communications expert, regularly teaches leaders how to effectively navigate and manage these difficult conversations.
According to Dr. Reynolds, President of Covisioning LLC and author of The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs , employees can be smart and talented, yet unable to get desired results due to behavior issues (e.g., they’re arrogant, condescending), or their resistance to change.
Regardless of the scenario, leaders can’t just tell employees to change and expect a different result. Instead, they need to listen carefully to first understand their employee’s specific roadblocks, and then help shift their employee’s mindsets using reflective inquiry techniques. Dr. Reynolds offers leaders a number of helpful tips including:
- Have difficult conversations. Leaders often try various tactics to resolve performance issues, but resist having conversations with employees that could be uncomfortable, unsettling, and emotional. Dr. Reynolds says discomfort is a pre-cursor to change so leaders should embrace these conversations, not ignore them.
- Listen deeply. Most leaders know they shouldn’t just tell people what to do, but this is still standard operating procedure because they don’t know what to ask their employees that will change their minds. Dr. Reynolds teaches leaders how to listen for what to ask, and then instructs them on how to use what they hear to break through the barriers that cause blind spots and resistance. She advises leaders to be present and really listen; once they start talking, people will always tell you what you need to know.
- Nurture open-minded thinking. The best leaders inspire employees to look internally and question themselves to see themselves more clearly, recognize their blind spots, and understand what they’re resisting. Self-discovery is the most efficient way for leaders to develop their employees.
- Don’t rehearse what you’re going to say while they talk. The techniques Dr. Reynolds teaches start with learning how to relax, set a strong but positive emotional tone, and feel curious and listen with the entire nervous system so you don’t fall into waiting to insert your viewpoints or solutions.
- Be a partner. Today’s employees want their leaders to be partners, not directors. In particular, Millennials want to be treated like equals and acknowledged for their contributions. Also, they want their brains developed – not just their skills. Studies indicate employees crave regular coaching and feedback. Leaders need to have conversations that grow people’s minds on a regular basis.
Dr. Marcia Reynolds , a highly-respected coach, trainer, author and speaker, has a robust coaching background, working with leaders in 34 countries, and spending 16 years working internally in high-profile corporations. One of the first 25 people in the world to be certified as a Master Certified Coach, she works with coach training schools in the US, Europe and Asia and holds leadership positions in global coaching associations.