Crucial conversations in the workplace are critical to success and a healthy culture. When truths need to be shared but they are not, negative energy builds and we start talking about others instead of to the personwhere the communication breakdown occurred. When we choose not to talk to the person where the misunderstanding has occurred we have stepped into the place of Acting it Out! Or, another way we Act it Out is by avoidance – we avoid the person, we become sarcastic and start picking at another person for no apparent reason…passive-aggressive behavior!
This solves nothing and creates an unsafe culture for everyone. Secret conversations (talking about others behind their backs) begin and they spread like a virus and most of what is “passed on” to others are non-truths. Consequently, drama and negativity spread like a wildfire!
Preparing for Crucial Conversations
What to do? As a leader you must think carefully through the what, who and how of a crucial conversation:
- Know what crucial conversation needs to be had: what is the communication breakdown that needs to be cleared up?
- Decide who is involved with the communication breakdown that needs to be a part of this conversation. Who owns this conversation? Who is feeling misunderstood?
- Think about how this conversation needs to be handled, the best way to keep emotions in check and facts to be discussed while perceptions are shared. It’s that little voice screaming inside your head that something is not right and won’t go away that tells you a conversation is needed!
- When mediating a Crucial Conversation, you must first create a safe space for each person involved to share their story and intention. Always lead with observations and questions not emotions!
- If the drama has extended to other team members, once the initial communication break-down has been cleared up, then a crucial conversation with the rest of the team as a group also needs to be handled. Above all, talk about the negative impact on the team and how to handle it better in the future. In the future when a team member is witnessing a “secret conversation” about someone who is not present to simply state: “It is not ok to talk about team members when they are not present.”
The best book ever written about these types of communication break-downs is Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler. Here is the link for more valuable information: Crucial Conversations at amazon.com.