How many difficult conversations have you had today? Too often we believe that a disagreement is a symptom of a weak relationship when it can actually be a sign of a strong one. How do you encourage difficult conversations that improve your results?
Caught in the Storm?
Teams go through four stages as they develop:
Everyone is polite during the forming phase. On the surface it looks like a great team, however the best work is not yet getting accomplished because individuals don’t share their risky ideas. They are not voicing their opinions when they differ, and therefore, they aren’t challenging each other to be better.
As they enter the storming phase group members start to come out of their shells. They are finding their place in the team and becoming comfortable enough to state their opinions, which may lead to arguments.
If a team gets stuck in either of the first two phases, problems and limitations arise. Individuals who fear the conflict or have seen it handled poorly will revert back to their forming behaviours in order to avoid difficult conversations. Creativity and innovation are crushed by a fear of failure, but they flourish in an environment where failures are treated as opportunities rather than impediments to success.
Improve Your Results
It is the leader’s responsibility to understand where their teams are in the development process and to move them through the first three stages as quickly as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to invite difficult conversations or disagreements and then to guide the team through with them. This will get them to the performing phase quicker. It will also give them the skills and confidence to navigate difficult conversations in the workplace and beyond.
Trust = Results
It can be time consuming to stay attuned to the team development process, but it has a huge pay-off. When you build strong teams, you create a culture of trust and when team members trust one another, they will:
- communicate well,
- hold one another accountable,
- raise expectations,
- challenge one another, and
- deliver superior results.
You can only achieve a high level of trust by addressing difficult issues openly and often.
Next time you see an issue bubbling, bring it to the surface, embrace it, and deal with it. Be confident that encouraging difficult conversations will improve your culture and your results.
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