Conversations are the lifeblood of our most important relationships
Would you agree with me that each conversation we have with our boss, employee, customer, co worker and any significant person in our life either boosts the relationship or stifles it? “Conversations are the lifeblood of our most important relationships”
Yet a lot of organisations, families and alliances have a list (most times unwritten) of ‘undiscussable’ topics and issues; everyone deliberately steering clear of those topics in the name of maintaining peace or equilibrium.
I read about a company president who cut short an employee making a candid observation by saying “Howard, I do not consider that a career-enhancing response”
We do want to make these important conversations, in fact sometimes we whisper and grumble about it; only not to the actual person we need to have it with. We think, ‘why cause a commotion in a staff/ stakeholders meeting and be the reason it takes the whole day’ or ‘why face the consequence of the recipient taking it the wrong way’.
I remember during the period of the finance house boom in the early 90s, I was working as the administrator of a small finance house in Lagos. The company was in serious financial trouble and we were struggling to pay our depositors, all of us knew the problem was worsened by the CEO’s leadership style and habits, and constantly held pity parties and gossip sessions about it.
But when he called a staff meeting asking us our opinion of what we thought was the cause of our crisis, everyone kept quite. I was 21 years old, just finished youth service naive, and unschooled in office politics.
I was the one who offered the answer, telling him the only problem I could see was that he was running the business as a one man business (The business was actually solely his)... would you be surprised if I told you I was handed my dismissal letter the very next day.
Ironically, these relationships we try so hard to preserve fall apart as a result of the conversation we refused to make -A vital member of staff drops his resignation letter in the middle of an important project because he could no longer work alongside an obnoxious colleague- it was your role to challenge this particular employee but you didn’t want any distraction; a major customer takes her business elsewhere.
She tells you she is disappointed in your customer care- You sensed all along that things were not right and you needed to carry out a customer survey, but you were scared of what the survey would reveal.
By the way, that particular finance house I mentioned earlier, collapsed within six months of that meeting, leaving all the people-both employees and employer who refused to have the crucial ‘fierce conversation’, jobless.
What is a ‘Fierce Conversation’? I will be running a workshop on this theme in conjunction with one of the State’s Business School in a couple of months, but the first time I came across the term, the performance coach in me cringed at the title- doesn’t ‘fierce mean cruel, barbaric, threatening?
However I discovered that the word fierce has the following synonyms: robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate and eager.
Fierce conversation is about being real, removing the ‘pink and fluffy’ language. It’s about coming out from behind the conversation, cutting the chase and making it real.
For a government, an organisation or friendship to succeed, we need to make these real, robust conversations; stop the role play and start the real play.
The questions we need to address in a fierce conversation are: What is real? What is honest? What is quality? What is value? When we become ‘fierce agents of change, we will experience a high level of personal authenticity and integrity, bringing about the desired change in ourselves and others.
It definitely won’t always be smooth or easy. You may find yourself in a crowd who will not support you, or those who love you but are not just emotionally or psychologically equipped to support your fierce conversation. What is important is ‘showing up’ and being real.
We’ll explore the concept of “Fierce Conversation” over the next couple of weeks.
Gbonju is a UK based certified professional Personal/Small Business Performance Coach, trainer and International Speaker. She qualifies through the Chartered Institute for Personnel Development (CIPD) and the Coaching Academy. For more information on how you or your organisation can benefit from her services, visit www.peakpeopledevelopers.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org