Best Practices, Feature, Operations, V9I4

The Ripple Effect of Honest Conversations

(Photo courtesy of Pixabay via Pexels)

If you ignore the problem, will it go away? Will it get easier tomorrow?

Nope, it won’t go away, in fact, not only will the problem persist, but typically it will intensify and grow over time. 

Let me be clear—I’m not advocating for impulsive and heated exchanges. Taking time to reflect, allowing emotions to settle, and approaching the conversation with a level head are important steps. 

However, there is a stark difference between responsibly considering the timing and avoiding the issue altogether by sweeping it under the rug or pretending it doesn’t exist.

I propose that embracing forthrightness and engaging in difficult conversations may require effort and discomfort, but the rewards of stronger relationships, growth, and a thriving company culture far outweigh the potential loss costs of avoidance. 

Loss costs? Those are the expenses incurred as a result of negative outcomes or adverse events. In the context of difficult conversations, loss costs can be understood as the negative consequences that arise from avoiding or mishandling those conversations.

Consider with me the ripple impact of proclaiming a company culture and then being unwilling to fight for the things that you said you believe in. 

Stand behind your company mission, vision, and values or incur massive trust penalties and the potential for a host of other issues like missed opportunities, damaged relationships, disengaged employees, decreased productivity, increased costs, delayed decision-making, and emotional strain. 

When you consistently demonstrate forthrightness in your interactions, and reinforce your words with actions, others perceive you as trustworthy and credible. 

People appreciate honesty and are more likely to rely on you. We all respect individuals who are upfront and transparent, and this trust builds stronger relationships and opens doors to new opportunities. 

Forthrightness cuts through ambiguity and confusion, allowing others to have a clearer understanding of your thoughts, intentions, and expectations. This type of communication minimizes misunderstandings and enables collaborative problem-solving.

A lot of employee issues can be headed off if you simply take the time to clearly outline the job description, expectations, and the quantifiable successes of the position. 

I know, I know … I didn’t think this was necessary either—until I learned the hard way. There are parts that I still royally dislike. 

It is hard work outlining a thorough job description, its key competencies, and rateable scoring, especially when you are starting from scratch, and it takes collaboration. Ideally, at least three key individuals should work together and challenge each other on what you really want and expect. 

But hey, if you can’t figure out the job description, what makes you think your employee will be able to figure out your job expectations?

Being clear and precise requires you to come to terms with your own expectations and it is a reality check. 

Surely this is only needed for “higher level positions.” Wrong again, every position at every level needs clarity. Does that feel overwhelming? Maybe you need a facilitator. 

These job descriptions, competencies, and some kind of scoring should be part of your hiring process, but it doesn’t end there; it needs to show up as a reference point in your daily interactions and monthly reviews. 

This can take as little as 10 minutes monthly, but don’t skip it, and do ask for constructive criticism. Your willingness to learn and evolve can propel you forward by helping you overcome obstacles and develop skills. 

When you are genuine and transparent in your communication, you create an environment where feedback is valued and sought after by all, maintaining momentum, and avoiding unnecessary setbacks.

Do you have someone falling short of your expectations, not actively demonstrating company values or even undermining directives? Were you clear? 100 percent crystal clear? Is it documented? 

You might have a highly capable individual occupying a position who is unaware of your expectations. It is your responsibility to provide this clarity and opportunity for success. 

Embracing vulnerability in sharing your intentions and thoughts not only cultivates authentic connections but also fosters a transformative understanding, making it clear that kindness lies in the power of clarity.

If you haven’t guessed, I have learned this the hard way. I made gut calls and ended up with a stomachache. 

Today, I work on communication all of the time. I am better at it than I was last month, last year, and the year before that—and it is still hard work but so worth it! 

At Burkholder, we talk about better communication, read about it, listen to podcasts, and keep practicing. We remind each other that you have to say more out loud, more often than you want to, and what is clear to you isn’t usually clear to everyone around you. 

You are the one to create change and you do this by engaging in dialogue. This is crucial! You can’t be the only one talking, or you aren’t actually communicating. 

Communication is a two-way street and the higher the stakes the more important it is to ensure you are having the right conversation, listening (especially when others are blowing up or clamming up), creating a sense of safety, and staying focused. 

To be clear, some situations will require action beyond conversations. The conversations serve as a catalyst for change or clarity in addressing the identified need. Establishing clear expectations, defining success, and ensuring a common understanding are fundamental steps to take.  

In the end, it may become clear that you have the wrong person in the seat, unable (for any number of reasons) to do what is needed. As painful as the process is, releasing that individual to another position, even if it is not within your company, is kindness. 

The ability to handle this in a way that the other individual also sees as respectful is a skill of great value and a personal life goal. This calls for the ability to be persuasive, not abrasive, to be both candid and respectful.

 At other times, you may have the right person (a great company culture fit) in the wrong seat (specific task fit), or the job description changed as the company grew and suddenly what worked before doesn’t work anymore.

You are not doing anyone any favors by keeping everyone miserable and hoping that things get better. Things don’t magically get better.

Check out the second law of thermodynamics, in which things progress from order to disorder. Don’t believe me? Check your hair first thing in the morning, and I’ll venture it looks worse than it did the night before. 

It takes action, present and continuous, to carve out a culture of forthright respectful dialogue.

The ripple effect of honest conversation extends far beyond individual discussions. When we commit to open and honest communication, the benefits reverberate throughout the organization. 

Employee engagement and satisfaction increase, leading to a decrease in turnover. Informed decision-making becomes the norm, driving innovation and progress. 

A positive work environment flourishes, fostering creativity and teamwork. The long-term impact is a thriving company culture that attracts top talent, retains employees, and outperforms competitors.

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