Influence what you can. Here is my daughter Hannah, poised to bungee jump off Victoria Falls Bridge. Over a decade’s worth of ballet lessons came into use, as she consciously held her space and chose her position. Does it feel as positive a choice as this for you, when you enter a courageous conversation?
Many, many of my clients bring the courageous conversation topic to their coaching sessions with me. Courageous conversation – typically in some shape or form about feedback, performance or unwelcome change – is not something many of us have become particularly skilled at. We worry about balancing the risk (will it go wrong? will it make things worse?) with the outcome (how much could it improve, if we take the risk to create a different future, or at least give it a try). The dilemma goes round and round in our heads until we are sick of it and bury it under the carpet. We do our best to avoid the conversation and let it stay there until it comes up again.
Here are three things I have learnt, often the hard way, about courageous conversation:
- It is better to choose to do it, to go on the front foot and enable the conversation to happen in a planned way and early too, than wait for it to all blurt out or spill over.
- Before the conversation, it is better to figure out what the conversation is really about, rather than to brush over, approximate or guess the reason.
- It’s helpful to be kind to yourself after the event, and plan something nice to do, whatever the outcome.
Here is how coaching can help:
- Preparation. Having skilled support and insight to help you find out what really matters to you, so you can hold true to youself and what you want and need from the conversation.
- Rehearsal. Not just in who says what but also consideration of the complete breadth of possible scenarios and range of outcomes that could happen.
- Alternative perspective. Help with imagining what might really matter to the other person, so you can speak to, enquire about and influence what matters to them.
- Self care. Paying attention to your confidence, emotional posture and poise so they can all contribute to a more successful outcome on the day itself and beyond.
From investment of this sort you can enter the courageous conversation – genuinely knowing inside yourself, that often the exact outcome, surprisingly, ultimately, really doesn’t matter. It’s much more likely there are a range of acceptable outcomes that you can create together with the other person, including ones that you would never have imagined on your own.
Coaching can help you prepare for and hold the space in the conversation with the other person in a way that increases the chances of you both gaining outcomes that you aspire to, want and need.
It may not alter the fact that starting the conversation still feels like jumping off Victoria Falls Bridge. Jumping into something which feels so unknown may always feel unsafe, but coaching can help. It can help you feel like you are attached to a rope, and that the conversation can follow a process, where yes, you drop and come up again, maybe many times, before you gain an outcome.
What’s happening in your world?
Do you have any significant conversations coming up? Can I help you to influence what you can, to create the emotional posture and poise to enter a courageous conversation really well?
Support and a safety rope might help you not only gain a much better outcome, but one where you can also feel FANTASTIC about the result – with the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment Hannah felt at the end of her bungee jump too.
Gill How has over twenty years experience of developing leadership teams, culture and behaviour change programmes in high performing organisations– helping them to improve conversation outcomes everyday. If you would like an exploratory conversation (courageous or otherwise!) to see how she can help you and your team meet your goals, contact her here
Photographs by Martin How and Victoria Falls Bungee.