Recent research conducted with 9,561 employees, managers, and executives from 272 public, private, business, and healthcare organizations suggests that 93% of people have ignored or completely avoided having a needed conversation with a co-worker.

The reason being, we don’t want to offend the individual, come across as a “know-it-all” or be perceived as being critical with those with whom we work.  89% of those surveyed claimed to have ignored or completely avoided conversations with their boss.

One may be concerned that there may be a lot at risk when dealing with the boss; so many times our decision is to just stay clear.  Finally, 81% of managers have acted similarly with their direct reports, those people with whom they have specific responsibility to provide such feedback and coaching as part of their job responsibilities.

Even when we have the best intentions, we most often ignore, avoid or withdraw from needed direct feedback and coaching.  So, why is it, that we as smart, committed, hardworking people avoid difficult or challenging situations when confronted with them?

We want to raise an issue or speak our mind, but don’t want to polarize the conversation, make ourselves or others uncomfortable.  We don’t want to appear as a trouble-maker, or be labeled a “non-team player.”

Maybe, we want to work with others to solve problems but want the problems defined and solved our way.  Often times, these sorts of conversations tend to be difficult and we find ourselves having trouble being effective.

As companies move away from the traditional hierarchical management structures into more horizontal, matrixed and team-based organizations, we as leaders are challenged with different roles and are looking for new models for performance.

We cannot afford to simply focus on managing tasks and relying on human resource departments to deal with people development. As leaders, we must focus on fully developing each member of our team as well as providing them with guidance and regular feedback, which may be accomplished through a method we call Courageous Conversations™.

The definition or overall purpose of Courageous Conversations™ is to help leaders appreciate the vital importance of rigorous, balanced, effective conversations around difficult, challenging subjects.  Courageous Conversations™ help leaders be aware of and recognize the defensive tendencies that often hamper such conversations; and to explore and practice a tested framework for facilitating balanced conversations under stress.

Courageous Conversations™ is not about changing others as much as it is about identifying and correcting our own ineffective patterns of communications and coaching.  Courageous Conversations™ is not a gimmick or set of oversimplified steps to follow, it is a robust skill set, or discipline, that requires a presence of mind, real focus, and an ongoing effort in order to be effective.

Just like learning to play a musical instrument, mastering a foreign language, or perfecting skills in a new sport, becoming good at Courageous Conversations™ takes a high level of commitment, courage and practice, practice, practice.

As managers and leaders, we face an assortment of daunting responsibilities we must execute competently if we are to be effective in our roles.  These challenging tasks include providing rigorous performance coaching and feedback to people who may not want it; making tough decisions under pressure; holding people consistently accountable for performance; and acting as a clear, vibrant conduit between senior management and the work force.

When it comes to successfully performing these vital functions, one pivotal skill stands out above all the rest, the ability to foster potent, direct, constructive dialogue on difficult complex issues effectively.


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About the Author
Tony Herrera
Dr. Herrera, a resourceful and people-oriented professional, has had more than 20 years of global leadership and organizational development experience in a wide variety of industries before he became the Chief Talent Officer for Schreiber Foods. Prior to his position with Schreiber Foods, he served as Regional Learning Officer for Pfizer, Inc. based in New York City, NY. At Pfizer, Tony was responsible for Asia and Latin America. In this role, he designed and led a global learning strategy for over 15,000 developing leaders. Before joining Pfizer, Tony worked at Boeing, 3Com, and Merck. Dr. Herrera is a responsible and self-directed leader with an excellent record of achieving challenging objectives. His perspective is very different, having been on the “inside.” He has a greater understanding and insights into what companies really experience and the challenges they are trying to overcome because he has lived them. He has facilitated an extensive amount of leadership development in a variety of setting to audiences in nearly 50 countries.

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