Why do organizations need honest conversations? How do you organize a candid conversation?
Honest conversations help leaders engage with their team to address problematic behaviors that could fester and create a toxic work culture. These conversations require an environment that allows space for discussion, and language that lets people comfortably express vulnerability.
Read more about the importance of honest conversations in building a thriving work culture.
The Need for Honest Conversations
Beyond candid conversations surrounding feedback, brave leaders need to engage in honest conversations surrounding difficult or awkward emotions. These conversations are necessary to a thriving work culture—if you don’t invest time in them, you will end up wasting time addressing problematic behaviors that team members rely on to cover up their difficult emotions.
These conversations require the vulnerability of using the right language. In workplaces, language is usually sanitized and disconnected from the very real emotions that team members experience and need to work through
Brave leadership doesn’t allow team members to fall back on describing “easy” emotions to avoid their true, difficult emotions. Brave leadership puts the correct language to the feeling, and it allows space for discussion. This is much easier said than done—using the right language can make people feel very emotionally exposed, which is uncomfortable for both parties.
Once you open up these honest conversations around emotions, you need to be brave enough to stay in the discomfort that comes with them. You can best do this by simply listening, resisting the temptation to talk away the discomfort or come up with answers. By allowing space and silence in the conversation, you let people discover the true core of their emotions and behaviors by themselves.
For example, Colonel Dede Halfhill of the Air Force regularly opens honest conversations with her airmen about their emotions. She started the practice years ago, when her airmen started asking to slow down operations because they were tired. In response, she told them about a study she’d read that showed that high levels of loneliness often manifest as exhaustion. This prompted an honest discussion about loneliness in the Air Force and her methods of support. Consequently, Halfhill stopped giving isolated time off for exhaustion and started focusing on connection and inclusion.
Honest conversations are difficult, but crucial to serving your team members and getting ahead of the emotions that often manifest in defensive behaviors that are toxic to innovative cultures.
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