Too many leaders lack the courage to say and do what needs to be said and done. In fact, I would say that failure of nerve among some leaders is virtually chronic.
I was talking with a CEO recently about the possibility of coaching an employee who was engaging in inappropriate, egregious and almost psychotic behaviors. I asked, “Has anyone been holding this leader accountable for his behaviors?” [Silence]. Basically, the answer was a resounding “no!”
Yes, even CEOs have difficulty with tough, necessary conversations. These are smart, capable, successful people. They know the numbers, technology, and operations up one side and down the other. But when they are supposed to have difficult conversations, say, about poor performance. . .they sometimes crumble.
Why is this?
There’s one key concept that comes to mind: anxiousness. These leaders get very uncomfortable around the idea of initiating those awkward conversations. It makes them anxious and makes them freeze. They lose their nerve.
So what to do?
- Consider the facts regarding the situation
- Ask yourself these questions: What will happen if I have the conversation? What will happen if I don’t? What’s the impact on the business? The team? The individual or people involved?
- Ask yourself, “What is the best thing for all of these stakeholders?” Be as honest and objective as you can
- Talk this out with a trusted confidant if possible
- Recognize that fear and anxiety may be holding you back from having these tough conversations
- Recognize that it is a leader’s job to deliver difficult messages–you are failing to take responsibility by not delivering them.
- Arm yourself with the facts. Brace yourself
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. Steel your nerves. Take a couple of deep breaths, and. . .
- Say the tough, but necessary things
I recall what one very successful businesswoman told me one time. Each day she:
- Has at least one conversation that she would rather not have
- Writes at least one thank you note