Why it's critical to help leaders have difficult conversations, skillfully.

In the intricate tapestry of leadership, there exists a realm fraught with trepidation and avoidance – the realm of difficult conversations.

Leaders, while adept at steering teams and organizations toward success, often find themselves skirting around discussions that touch sensitive nerves. This evasion is not rooted in incompetence but rather in the recognition of the emotional dynamism that such conversations can unleash.

Fearing potential conflict, strained relationships, or even personal vulnerability, leaders frequently sidestep addressing issues that demand forthrightness. However, this avoidance can unwittingly undermine team cohesion, hinder growth, and erode trust over time.

To bridge this gap, an emotional intelligence-based framework emerges, one that champions self-awareness, empathy, and adept communication as the pillars for navigating the complex terrain of difficult conversations.

By the Numbers

  • A 2018 Interact survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults found that 69% of the managers admitted that they were often uncomfortable communicating with employees.
  • A study by coaching and training firm Bravely shows that 70 percent of employees avoid difficult conversations.
  • Research from leadership training company VitalSmarts found that 1 in 4 people have been putting off an uncomfortable conversation for at least six months, 1 in 10 have been doing so for a year, and another 1 in 10 have been staying mum on an awkward issue for more than two years.

These numbers show the depth of the challenge with respect to delivering difficult feedback. 

According to Brene Brown, people will do almost anything. to avoid feeling pain. It’s no wonder that delivering difficult feedback falls into this category.

Above the Grind Leadership's E.A.S.E. Framework for having difficult conversations.


What Can  Leaders Do?

At ATG Leadership we recognize this significant challenge for leaders and we have introduced a new emotional intelligence-based framework for having difficult conversations. 

This framework focuses on enhancing self-awareness, empathy, and effective communication during challenging discussions:

The first reframe you’ll notice is we change feedback to conversations. This changes the tone from the outset. 

Let’s Explore the key steps.

Framework: E.A.S.ETM Conversations

  1. Explore Emotions:
  •  Self-Awareness: Before the conversation, take time to identify your own emotions and triggers. Understand how your emotions might impact the conversation.
  • Empathy: Consider the other person’s potential emotions and viewpoints. Put yourself in their shoes to better understand their perspective.
  1. Analyze Intentions:
  • Self-Reflection: Reflect on your intentions for having the conversation. Are they based on understanding, finding a solution, or simply expressing your feelings?
  • Empathetic Imagination: Imagine the intentions and concerns of the other person. This can help you approach the conversation with an open mind and heart.
  1. Supportive Environment:
  • Setting: Choose a comfortable and private space where both parties feel safe to express themselves without fear of judgment.
  • Active Listening: Focus on actively listening to the other person. Avoid interrupting and genuinely seek to understand their thoughts and feelings.
  1. Emotional Expression:
  • Self-Expression: Clearly express your emotions and thoughts using “I” statements. Share how you feel without placing blame.
  • Empathetic Communication: Encourage the other person to share their emotions openly. Create an atmosphere where they feel heard and valued.
  1. Engage Collaboratively:
  • Problem-Solving: Work together to find solutions. Focus on common goals and mutual interests.
  • Empathetic Problem Solving: Address concerns and conflicts by considering both parties’ needs and emotions. Brainstorm solutions that take both perspectives into account.

Remember, this framework is designed to promote emotional intelligence, empathy, and effective communication during difficult conversations. It emphasizes the importance of understanding emotions, intentions, and perspectives on both sides.

Applying this framework can create an environment where challenging discussions can lead to growth, understanding, and resolution.

One additional note: We recommend training for leaders prior to rolling out the E.A.S.E. Framework to ensure effective and consistent application.

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Global Leadership Training and Executive Coaching
I help leaders and organizations resolve or leverage whatever is in their way.