When it comes to having difficult conversations with your employees, do you feel like you’re up to the challenge? In the workplace, as in our personal lives, tough conversations are essential for growth. This year, HCI’s 2018 Performance Coaching & Development Conference will bring together speakers to explore new and effective methods managers can use to authentically connect with employees, provide meaningful feedback, and use coaching conversations to drive performance.
Two of those experts, Karin Hurt and David Dye, co-authored the book Winning Well—A Manager's Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. They’ll share the stage at this event to present “Coaching Managers for the Tough Conversations,” and we sat down with the couple to learn more about their methods for building this crucial skill in the workplace.
How can we help coach our managers, as well as ourselves, to have hard conversations in a way that promotes further discussion without hurt feelings?
KARIN: We often find there are two reasons that people don't have the tough conversations. One is that they are afraid—they’re afraid of damaging relationships or that the truth will be unpopular and will damage their career. They might be afraid that they’ll jeopardize their position within the organization and alienate others. That’s some of the work that must be done when you’re building a culture—how do you remove some of the fear of having real conversations? The second reason is that they just don’t know how.
DAVID: A hallmark of effective organizations is that everybody at every level, not just HR, not just executives, not just leaders and managers, but individual contributors, too, are able to have tough conversations and hold each other accountable. In order to do that, we need tools, and we provide a structured process.
One of the things that's important is that these tough conversations are actually conversations. We created our INSPIRE model, and each letter in INSPIRE stands for a different aspect that helps facilitate an actual conversation to uncover solutions to problems and get to some agreement about how you're going to move forward.
What do you feel are some of the biggest obstacles that organizations are facing when they're trying to create this culture of frequent conversations?
DAVID: One of the big challenges I see frequently is that responsibility for the subject is isolated to human resources or other personnel-related people, when, in reality, one of the biggest things that makes this work is when everybody takes responsibility for it. It's a strategic capacity issue, and every single person in the organization needs to be doing it. Leaders need to be held accountable for ensuring that they're doing it, and they're helping to foster that capacity in their people.
KARIN: Another thing we really find is that a lot of the conflict that emerges seems like it’s about a fear of having conversations. The reality is, the conflict comes from mismatched or unclear expectations. We believe one good conversation about expectations prevents 13 "Why didn't you…?" conversations. When expectations are aligned within and across departments, everyone knows what's most important, what they need to be doing, and why they're doing it. Then you have less need for conflict resolution.
What would be your top two pieces of advice that you would give to HR executives that are facing the tough conversation challenge today?
DAVID: No matter what initiative you're trying to achieve, including this one of fostering productive conversations, consider the ultimate strategic objectives of the organization. What is the executive strategy, and how is what you're doing going to play into that? Understanding, owning, and working towards the greater strategic objective is critical.
KARIN: People will watch what you do more than what you teach them, so make sure that you're working to build competency at every level of the organization. If you have a training program at the front line, where you're encouraging people to have tough conversations, but it's not being done elegantly at the top, you won’t be able to create a cadence of accountability to promote the practice organization-wide.
To learn more about tough conversations and the unique models Karin and David have created, listen to the full podcast here.
Don’t forget to join us in Chicago for the 2018 Performance Coaching & Development Conference taking place May 17-18 to hear more from Karin and David.