Recently watching the billionaire Marcus Lemonis in his reality show “The Profit,” about saving small businesses, I was reminded of a commonality in high level leaders. In the show, Marcus has tough conversations with the entrepreneurs, sometimes bringing their weaknesses to light. To some this trait is natural; as my father has told me, “I couldn’t imagine not discussing the elephant in the room.” To others like me, discussing difficult matters can be a bit uncomfortable, but observing high-level leaders has brought me to this conclusion: you will only rise to the level of leadership of which you are willing to have difficult conversations.
High-level leaders know time is valuable and to put off a needed conversation is to discredit yourself and your associates. Frankly, the bashful billionaire simply does not exist, but that’s not to be confused with humility. Here are 5 ways that have helped me communicate difficult matters on a higher level:
- Ask yourself if the conversation you are needing to have is wisdom-based or emotion-based. Typically, wisdom is always received better than emotionalism. Proverbs 15:2 says the tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing.
- Have the conversation sooner than later, as the issue arises it’s fresh because it just happened. Putting off the conversation can send a signal that you have been dwelling on it for days or weeks, making the recipient more likely to become defensive rather than receptive. Proverbs 15:23 says everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!
- Just say it. Thirty minute disclaimers about how you don’t want to be awkward typically just creates awkwardness.
- Humility trumps formality. If your true motive is to value and better the person, then humility should shine through. Coming from a place of pure judgment will cause more separation than unity.
- Exercise your conversation muscle. By doing so, your tolerance for difficult conversations will rise. You will begin to gain respect as a “straight shooter” and you will gain more trust among your associates as they no longer wonder about your thoughts and value your constructive feedback.
Jesus’ answers to His accusers are the best example, always stating the truth boldly yet with humility no matter how tense the moment. What are some successful ways you have found to have difficult conversations?