Having tough conversations at work can be scary.
Some conversations are tough, whether it’s a performance review, debriefing after the completion of a project, or figuring out why your team keeps encountering the same roadblock.
These are examples of conversations that I sometimes go into scared because I don’t know how they’ll end and I don’t have all of the control.
In her book, “Dare to Lead,” Brené Brown provides teachable moments for how to change your behaviors to become a daring leader who possesses the courage needed to have tough conversations.
Courage is made up of four skills sets:
All of those skills sets are learnable, but the ability to rumble with vulnerability is the foundation of courage, Brown says, because without that skill, the other three are impossible to put into practice.
“A rumble is a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, as psychologist Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard,” Brown says.
Brown defines vulnerability as the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It’s not winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.
It’s about having tough conversations in a safe space where people are willing to share and receive feedback. Performance reviews, debriefings, and brainstorming solutions to roadblocks are all times when we’re vulnerable. They’re conversations we have daily.
Brown offers a variety of practical tips on how to become vulnerable and create safe spaces for tough conversations. She also provides further guidance and opportunity for reflection in an online workbook.
“The skill sets that make up courage are not new; they’ve been aspirational leadership skills for as long as there have been leaders. Yet we haven’t made great progress in developing these skills in leaders, because we don’t dig into the humanity of this work—it’s too messy. It’s much easier to talk about what we want and need than it is to talk about the fears, feelings, and scarcity (the belief that there’s not enough) that get in the way of achieving all of it. Basically, and perhaps ironically, we don’t have the courage for real talk about courage. But it’s time.”
JENNIFER PLAGER, managing editor, Credit Union National Association.