S1:E26 – Courageous Conversations


In this episode, Bridgette and Irvine explore the phenomenon of resistance and sabotage — why this is part and parcel of the leadership experience and something to expect rather than to be feared.   



Don’t forget to check out Irvine’s You Tube channel with new videos every Wednesday on emotional intelligence, resilience, and leadership.

Check out Irvine’s new book Leadership Lessons From The Pub.

Check out Bridgette’s book which she co-authored with Bod Duggan  Resilient Leadership 2.0.

And as always, don’t forget about all the mind-blowing free resources some of which are mentioned in each episode. 


Bridgette: Welcome, everybody, to the Resilient Leadership Podcast. My name is Bridgette, and, as always, our goal is to provide you with topics and content that help you to lead with a greater sense of calm, clarity, and conviction, even in anxious times. And I’m joined by my wonderful partner and collaborator, Irvine Nugent. Irvine, how’s life treating you today?

Irvine: I am doing well, Bridgette, thanks so much for asking. As we record this, we’re just in the final weeks of December and all of the craziness that goes with that. But I love this season, I love the winter season. There’s a part of this that invites me into deeper reflection, and I love that there’s a darkness and a mystery around the darkness. So, I’m enjoying this season and this time. How about yourself, how are you?

Bridgette: Good. And it’s interesting; as you’re saying that, the word that came to mind is hibernate, right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: I think it’s a time to do a little bit of hibernating, just, kind of, shutting down a bit and thinking and reflecting, as you said, sitting by the fire recalibrating, all of that good stuff.

Irvine: I love it. So, Bridgette, tell us a little bit more. What are we going to talk about today?

Bridgette: All right. Well, what is on tap is courageous conversations.

Irvine: Love it.

Bridgette: And these are those conversations we all have to have from time to time, but the very thought of having them produces anxiety, maybe even fear deep within us, right? And consequently we often put them off. So, I would invite our listeners to be thinking about right now, what’s a conversation you’ve been putting off, because just thinking about having it makes you anxious? Is it a conversation with your spouse or another family member? Maybe it’s at work. It’s with your boss. It’s with an underperformer. It’s with a colleague, right? And we’re going to be talking about what are some tips for leaning into these conversations? And we’re going to explore three specific, I think, pretty difficult conversations to have and end with a great practice.

But before we get into all of that. Okay. So, Irvine, I’m curious, because we live long enough on this planet, we’ve all had these courageous conversations. And last episode you talked about how courage and fear go in tandem, right? You can’t have one without the other. And so, can you recall a conversation where you had to push through your fear to have it?

Irvine: Yeah. As I think about this, there’s one that comes to mind. I think some of our listeners may be aware; others are not, that the first part of my career I, actually, was a Catholic priest for 10 years. And I was in ministry for 10 years and made the very difficult decision to transition out of that. When I joined the priesthood, my mother was very enthusiastic and was the cheerleader, and so when I transitioned out, I was terrified with that conversation. And I put that conversation off with my mother for so long, and I think the primary fear was of disappointing, of in some way not living up to her ideal. And there was a fear of what would I do with her reaction?

And I had created all of these stories and all of these situations in my mind. And I can remember the day, the time we went for a coffee and I was just, I was a wreck, I was just thinking about it and what would I do? What would I say? And it turned into such a beautiful conversation. And really, it went to remind me that, at times, so much of what we think will happen doesn’t, and, ultimately, it wasn’t that she wasn’t disappointed, she was, but, ultimately, she said, for me, what’s more important is you being happy. And she said, that’s always been the case. So, that was a conversation of real deep emotional meaning, for me, and one that just had a lot of fear around it

Bridgette: Oh, boy, I can imagine. And is your mom still alive today, Irvine.

Irvine: She is not. No, mom passed. So, she did about, oh, a good. 14 years ago.

Bridgette: Yeah. Well, what a great mom, because what you got from that was that her love for you far surpassed any disappointment she might have about your choices, you know?

Irvine: Yeah. Yeah.

Bridgette: That’s awesome. What a beautiful story.

Irvine: Yeah. Yeah. So, Bridgette, how about you? What comes to mind when you think of this topic of a courageous conversation?

Bridgette: Well, I can think of one now. This is going to be quite different from what you just shared, because it’s a work-related one. But I do recall in the moment, and by the way, I didn’t know it was going to happen. So, it provoked a lot of fear in the moment. So, what happened is I had a retainer agreement with a client, this is a long time ago, I want to say a decade ago, I still remember it like it was yesterday. And it was a very nice retainer agreement, I had worked hard to get it, and it was an important piece of my portfolio of work.

And it began with an organizational audit or assessment where I interviewed all of these people in the organization and put together a report for the CEO. I was going to coach the CEO and some of his team and do some other things. Okay, that’s the context. So, I am sitting in his office and we are going to debrief the report I gave him, and we’re also going to have a coaching session. Well, things do not go as planned, because he is pissed off. He read the report and he starts telling me why, basically, he thinks it’s full of shit. To speak bluntly, because that’s, actually, what he said to me. Not so much that I was, but the people who were saying these things, who were his employees, right?

Irvine: Wow. Yeah.

Bridgette: And he’d been triggered, right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: And I could see that it was going to be real hard to get to a place where we could even coach, right? So, I tried to transition it into, okay, let’s talk about you, let’s talk about what you want to do as the leader here. And he also began to resist that and, basically, say, it isn’t my problem, it’s their problem. I’m not the problem, they are. And I just realized, I remember, oh my gosh, I have to let go of this work. I have to say goodbye to this retainer. I can’t help this person. They don’t want to grow as a leader.

And I had to say goodbye to it in the moment and gather my courage to say to him what I said, which is, you know what I just realized? And this is totally fine, this is your prerogative. You don’t want to work on being a better leader. You’ve been around the block many times. You feel that your leadership is sufficient. But I’m a leadership coach, and what I do is help people grow and develop as leaders, regardless of where they are in their careers. And so, I don’t think I’m the person to work with you.

And I start to gather my things to leave his office. And I got up and, all of a sudden, he goes, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, where are you going? Sit back down. And I sat down and he said, wait, let’s rewind this for a second. And to make a long story short, we did end up going through with the engagement, but I recall feeling, in that moment, a great fear that I was about to lose one of the best pieces of business that I had secured. It took a lot to find my voice and say what I said. So, yeah, that was one that sticks in my mind.

Irvine: Wow.

Bridgette: Yeah.

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: So, very different stories for us, but both, we had to overcome fear.

Irvine: Yes. Very much so.

Bridgette: You know?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: And it was palpable for both of us.

Irvine: Very much so.

Bridgette: Yeah. All right. So, our listeners are, probably, imagining their own courageous conversations, maybe thinking about the one they’ve yet to have that they need to lean into. So, Irvine, let’s start sharing with folks some tips for how do we push past the fears and how do we have these conversations? How do we have them well? But first we have to get over the fear, right? So, anyway, what are some tips that you think have been helpful?

Irvine: Yeah, it’s a great question. So, I’d say, one tip that I think is very helpful is to really get clear on how you want to show up in the conversation, and this is irrespective of how the other person might react. When you think about it, when you think about as you prepare for these conversations, so often we’re all focused. My mother, all of my anxiety was about how is this person going to react, in the moment, to what I’m sharing? I had very little focus on myself. And so, we put all this energy into the other person, how are they going to act? How are they going to react to what we say? And I think we don’t put enough attention into how are we going to show up? How are we going to define ourselves?

So, therefore, I think a really basic question to ask ourselves in this upcoming conversation, how do I want to show up? Do I want to be calm? Do I want to bring clarity? Do I want to be centered in this conversation? And I think once we become clear about what we’re bringing in, I think, then, that really influence the presence as we begin that conversation, which is so critical. So critical. And then, I think, another important step would be, is to get clear on where you stand and why. So, kind of, that first one is about what presence am I bringing in? How am I showing up?

And the second is what am I standing on? What do I want to talk about? Why is it important, for me, and do I understand that? And that really brings a lot of clarity, because sometimes we’re, kind of, messy in our motives and messy in what we’re thinking about this, and I think really just taking time, why is this conversation important to me? And what are the values about this conversation? And why am I taking this stand here and not? And sometimes that may need a little help from another person.

So, sometimes with these conversations, it can be really nice to have a coach or a confidant and just to go back and forth and say, I’m thinking of having this conversation. And go by, well, why are you? Why is that important? So, the value is there. And I think what’s important about both of those things is that it’s really talking, and we mentioned this before in quite a few episodes. It’s really focusing on your own functioning. And it’s really about how I’m showing up and how I’m going to function.

And now, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned about the other person’s emotions; we want to come there with empathy, with understanding and respect. We want the other person to know that we’re listening to them. But the starting point is different here, the starting point is not over-concern about what might happen, might not happen, their reaction, the starting point here is really, how am I going to show up? How am I going to function?

Bridgette: Yeah. I love that, Irvine. And as you were talking about getting clear on where you stand and what are the values at stake. I was thinking back to that conversation I mentioned, and in the moment, when I began to think to myself, I need to let this piece of business go. The value where I stood there was, I want to do meaningful work that makes a difference, right? I don’t want to just go through the motions.

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: Yeah.

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: It’s so easy to get caught up in worrying about the other too much, right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: We all do that. Yeah. So, I want to piggyback on what you said because the getting clear part is so essential. First about where do we stand and what do we think and what are our values and what do we believe? But then getting clear, also, on our purpose for the conversation, what’s the desired outcome? For the sake of what are you going to enter into this very challenging and, perhaps, risky conversation? And that purpose needs to include both people, right? In other words, I remember one time asking somebody, he was really ticked off and he was going to have to have this difficult conversation with somebody that he worked with, that was, kind of, like a partner.

Anyway, he was very angry. And I said, so, what’s the purpose? What’s the desired outcome? And he is like, I just want to tell him what a jerk he is, you know? And I, kind of, chuckled at that and I’m like, well, yes. And what else? Because that alone is not a purpose that’s going to carry you through to a conversation with a real successful outcome, right? So, that’s important. I think the other thing, Irvine, one other tip, maybe, we could share with listeners is this notion of thinking a little bit ahead of time about how you might get triggered, right?

Because in these kinds of conversations that do take courage, if we take a few minutes to think about, well, what might the other person say or do that would trigger me, that would throw me off course, that would get my amygdala fired up and I’m in the threat response. And imagining that and seeing ourselves bring calmness to that triggering point in the conversation, I think can help us to prepare for it well and lean into it well. Yeah. So, those are some things that came to my mind. Now, from a neuroscience point of view, Irvine, what could you share with listeners about what goes on in conversations with regard to our brains? Because I think that is also a piece of this, right?

Irvine: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think for this question, I’ll turn to just a fantastic book. And if listeners haven’t read it, I’d certainly put it on the list of ones that you might find interesting. And it’s by a person called Judith Glazer, and it’s called Conversational Intelligence. And she goes into a whole dynamics of conversation, but there is a part of that where she talks about the neuroscience and really the power of conversations to shape our brains that many times we’re unaware of. And so, what she talks around is that conversations, yes, they are about sharing information, but at a deeper level, conversations have the power to, and we’ve just talked about this, to trigger physical and emotional changes in us.

And so, the brain will prepare us either to open up to have healthy, trusting conversations or shut us down and we’re going to speak from fear or caution or a little bit of anxiety. So, here’s how it works. And as we communicate, our brains have a whole triggering of neurochemical cocktails that make us feel either good or make us feel bad. And, of course, that is happening and we’re not even consciously aware that it’s happening, but it’s happening there. And, of course, that’s interacting with how we’re showing up, it’s interacting with the words we use, it’s interacting with the sentences we use, it’s interacting with the stories that we have, with our body language.

And so, what we know is the conversations that we’re in, that are feeling good, that are good conversations, there’s a higher presence of dopamine and oxytocin, which is the bonding neurochemical, endorphins. And so, it just increases our sense of wellbeing. And then conversations that don’t feel good, they have higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline. So, as we’re engaging in conversations, in the background, whether we like it or not, are all of these chemicals in our brains that have been activated, not only with us, but in the other person as well, and they are influencing that conversation.

Just think about it, think about a conversation you’ve had that was just easy. It just was wonderful and you’re sharing. It’s more than just the words, actually, you think about it, and the next time, maybe a challenge for listeners, next time you’re in a really good conversation, just stop there and notice how good it feels in your body. Your body just feels great, there’s energy there, you feel, kind of, warmth, and all of that is part of this dynamic that has gone on. And then, likewise as well, with conversations that don’t feel great.

So, it’s important to, kind of, really understand, kind of, that background and that neuroscience background. So, Bridgette, well, kind of, when you think about your own experience, what, kind of, conversations have you noticed that produce oxytocin and agreed in openness and trust?

Bridgette: Yeah. I think this is what I found most helpful about her research, is that they were able to, actually, identify the conversational behaviors that turn on those chemicals. The positive, staying connected chemicals in our brains and in the other person’s brain. And it’s not surprising things like really listening, listening to understand the other person; we know when we’re really being listened to and when we’re not. It’s being curious and asking questions from a curious place. It is being transparent and honest and saying what you, actually really, think. And I think, also, it’s things like admitting when you’re wrong, or owning your part in things, right?

So, we’re talking about courageous conversations and they can’t always feel good every moment of the conversation, but what we can work on is the behaviors that will allow us to stay connected, right? In that difficult space. And those are things that we can do, even in a courageous, difficult conversation. We can listen, we can be curious, we can notice the other, we can say what’s really on our mind and we can admit our role in things, right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: Yeah. All right. So, now, to me, that’s so helpful because it’s very concrete. And then on the opposite side of that, we’ve all been in conversations where it goes south. And it goes from feeling, at least, connected to disconnected.

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: And, Irvine, what are the behaviors you’ve seen in conversation that produce cortisol?

Irvine: Yeah. Well, I think, kind of, taking some of the things you’ve said and, actually, going the opposite way is a good start. Behaviors such as interruption. So, someone either shuts another person down or they’re interrupting that person and, of course, the feeling there is, I have no space to share what I want to say or I’m not being respected. People who are demonstrative and what I say is factual and there is zero curiosity, there is no openness to even consider that there might be an alternative. Listening to respond. And we do this, we can think, we’re great listeners, but, at times, it’s so hard to get away from this listening to respond, so that the person is talking, and already in our mind, we are rehearsing what we’re going to say.

And, of course, as soon as we go there, we’re not really listening. I’ve also been in meetings where people, it’s far too polite. People don’t have the conversations they need to have and they’re not really saying what they need to say or what they think. And then the other one is what I would just say an incongruence, and what I mean by that is we’re saying one thing and our body is saying something totally different. And in that, people are looking at that and people will believe your body before they believe your words. And, all of a sudden, alarm are going off and saying, something’s off here, and this person’s not really saying what they think or what they’re saying is just not true.

Bridgette: Yeah. The body never lies, right?

Irvine: Absolutely.

Bridgette: So, that’s why we pay more attention to the body than the words.

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: Yeah.

Irvine: Yeah. Yeah.

Bridgette: Yeah. So, it’s interesting. She used a term; I’m just remembering this now, co-regulation. That when we sit in conversations, we are together regulating one another’s nervous systems, right? And I find that fascinating. And so, that’s really helpful to remember, because in these courageous conversations, there is a tendency for them to go south, right? Because you’re bringing your own concerns to the conversation, and as you begin to share those, you perhaps trigger the other person’s amygdala.

So, staying connected, in fact, I want to go back to the three ingredients of a resilient leader that we’ve talked about in a previous episode, actually in several, right? Which is stay calm, stay connected, and stay the course. And if you show up like that in these courageous conversations, they will go better. There’s no guarantee, but they will go better. And everything we’ve just talked about goes a long way toward the staying connected part, doesn’t it?

Irvine: Yeah, absolutely.

Bridgette: Yeah.

Irvine: Totally. And that ability to stay connected, so critically important.

Bridgette: Yeah. So, Irvine, I want to talk about three specific conversations that I think leaders struggle with. And when you think about it, as a leader, unless you’re the CEO and there’s nobody above you like a board; you have to have challenging conversations in three directions, right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: Upward with your own boss or your board or whomever, sideways with your peers, downward with your own direct reports. In my experience when I’m coaching leaders one of the conversations that, and this is interesting, that strikes discomfort and, maybe, even fear in leaders, is having to address a performance improvement issue. The direct report. Now, why would this be so challenging and require courage, isn’t that part of a manager’s job, right? It’s, kind of, no big deal. And yet it is a big deal some of the time. Do you find that to be the case, Irvine?

Irvine: Absolutely, yes. I have coached leaders who have worried and fretted over this conversation and replayed, at times, and worried about something they can say they’ll get the other person going and, yes, absolutely.

Bridgette: And put it off because of that, right?

Irvine: Yeah. Yeah.

Bridgette: And so, what’s really going on there is a number of things. Maybe you’re too close to this person, maybe that person you have a very friendly relationship with, you go back many, many years. Maybe your families know each other, and it’s the very thought of telling this person that they aren’t hitting the mark is deeply uncomfortable, right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: Or to your point, they play out in their minds, if I tell them this, I know what’s going to happen. They’re either going to, A, cry. I don’t know what to do with that. or, B, get so angry and defensive and I don’t know how to handle that, right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: So, those are the fears, some of them. And we do have to gather our courage, because at the end of the day, the fairest thing that we can do is have that conversation because nobody can hit a mark that they don’t know they’re missing, right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: Yeah. So, Irvine, does any example, specifically come to mind of somebody you’ve helped have this conversation?

Irvine: There’s one that comes to mind of a chronic underperformer. And I would say that the supervisor, the boss in this case just felt they’d reached, well, what can I do? So, there was a resignation and that was an excuse, really, for not having the conversation. And it was interesting. So, just one of the conversations we had was very interesting, and I think it changed how he viewed that conversation. I said, this person that you need to have this conversation with, their behavior is, obviously, impacting you, is that correct? Yes. I said, do you think it’s impacting anyone else?

Oh, yeah. Other people, it’s impacting everyone. And I said, do you think that they would appreciate you having this conversation as well? And then he was like, oh. And I said, I think, maybe, you’re putting this conversation off because of how you think the other person might react, or if you think it might have no impact. But I said, what if it does have an impact? Can you think of the wider impact in the organization through the system? And that was really meaningful for him. And he said, I think I need to have this conversation.

Bridgette: That is great. And, at the end, we’re going to share in our practice, kind of, a framework for having this, kind of, conversation, because I think that can be useful, but just what you said there is so helpful that sometimes we have to step back. When we’re anxious, we get that, kind of, tunnel vision focus, where we’re so enmeshed in it. And what you did there is help him step back and see the broader implications for this. That’s really great. Okay. So, let’s talk about conversations that we might have to have with peers.

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: Because I think that’s another area that sometimes requires courage.

Irvine: Yeah. It’s interesting, because in the first one and in the third one, there’s clarity around responsibility. I have a responsibility to do this, but people are a little bit reticent when I said, well, I’ve no place to say anything to my peer. I’m equal to them, why would I get involved? It’s a way of, of course, deflecting what can really be a very important conversation, because in any shared responsibility we have, we are accountable to each other. And that’s important, and what we know about thriving workplaces is that people hold each other accountable.

And so, I have seen this where either a peer is being disruptive in a meeting. I, actually, have sat through meetings where I have seen a peer be very aggressive and shut down conversations. And I’ve seen the impact on the person that they shut down, basically, they, literally, withdrew from that meeting. And I remember, and I was coaching this person and I remember saying, what’s the impact of your voice being lost? Your voice is being lost in this conversation. And I said that’s costing the organization. And I think they were able, then, to come around and say, no, you’re right. I need to, in some way, kind of, in this stage, create a boundary and create to say you’ve overstepped. And I think, Bridgette, that can be the fear. There’s a fear of conflict.

Bridgette: Yes.

Irvine: And it’s like, and really, well, conflict’s inevitable. If you’re going to be on a team with other peers and you have different ideas, there is going to be conflict, and that’s just part of functioning. And I think avoiding a conversation because it might cause conflict, is something that happens, especially with peers. And I think she was able to, kind of, really stand up and say, excuse me, no, actually, I have something to say here. And I think it improved the dynamics of the team.

Bridgette: Yeah. That’s a tough one, because, to your point, who am I to give this peer feedback, right? We don’t feel that it’s our entitlement sometimes, Right?

Irvine: Yes.

Bridgette: But I love how you said it, which is that if you’re going to be on a team, there’s going to be conflict and to thrive, we have to hold each other accountable and we have to have these conversations, you know?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: So, my thought is, there are a couple of things I think can help us to enter into these conversations with peers. One is ask permission. Because, to your point, we’re not, necessarily, expecting our peers to confront us with this, kind of, stuff, right? Yeah. So, you say to somebody, Hey, I’ve noticed something, or I’ve observed something that I think is getting in our way or somehow causing some challenge and I’m wondering if you would be open to me sharing that with you.

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: And 9 times out of 10, the person’s going to say, sure. Right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: But somehow granting you permission opens the listening. And then I think the other tip we can share with listeners is to assume positive intent and to express that. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, I’m going to ruin everyone’s day and be a real jerk at this meeting. I can’t wait to shut somebody down. Those aren’t our intentions. And so, speaking to that, I’m sure this wasn’t your intention and here’s how it impacted me. Yeah. So, that’s such an important conversation. It does require courage because of what you said, which is there’s conflict at the root of it. And conflict makes us anxious.

Irvine: Absolutely. Yeah.

Bridgette: A lot of us will do anything to avoid it.

Irvine: Yeah. So, that leaves us then to the third conversation, Bridgette, which is another difficult conversation. And that’s that upward conversation to your boss. So, what are some thoughts you have around that conversation?

Bridgette: Well, that’s a doozy, and I do hear about that a lot in coaching. I bet you do too, Irvine, are you aware?

Irvine: Yeah, totally. Yes.

Bridgette: What just ends up happening is that our boss, our manager, our supervisor is doing something that’s really frustrating for us. Or undermining us, or getting in our way or getting in the team’s way, or whatever the case may be. And we’ll grumble about it and we’ll often talk to other people about it. The idea of having a conversation directly with our boss; now, this is where anxiety really spikes because that person is in charge of our paycheck. That person has a lot to do with our job security and our promotional opportunities.

So, there is a risk there, and we have to be honest about that. And yet, I think there’s also a great opportunity to enter into that conversation, again, using the tips around asking permission. Right? Don’t just foist it on your boss, but just say, Hey, I’ve observed something that I think might be keeping me from doing my best work, and I’m just curious if you’d be open to me sharing that with you. Right? And then, again, assuming positive intent goes a long way. What do you think, Irvine?

Irvine: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And it can be something, you know what? There’s one that I noticed a few weeks ago with a client and I was talking about it, and it, actually, came from, so the boss was trying to give a reward, or at least they thought they were giving a reward. And so, basically, it had happened that there’d been a lot of work and people were very stressed and my client has been doing a stellar job. And so, their boss decided that they would take away some responsibilities as the reward. And my client was very upset. I don’t want that, I want to do this. And then, they were getting into this game of, well, I can’t have that conversation because the person’s given it as a reward and it’ll be an insult and this, that and the other.

And so, again, that churning that goes on, and I said, assume positive intent. Which clearly this was, however, they just didn’t get it right in this case. And so, they had a conversation with the boss, and they said, I just want to have a talk about this. And it really turned into a really nice conversation. But that initial, that putting it off and where do I go? All of that angst, that anxiety around it was present there, and, at times, it is. And I think with the positive intent and then just having a conversation and really coming from, this is where I am, this is not about you, it’s about the impact of me.

And this is something you couldn’t have known about, and I just think if I can share this with you, I think you’ll have a better understanding of what’s driving me, a better understanding of what motivates me. And I think this would be really useful for our relationship.

Bridgette: That’s a great example. It does require courage. And I’m curious, Irvine, how many clients do you think, as a percentage, actually, are willing to have these kinds of conversations on occasion with a boss?

Irvine: Wow. If I had to put a guess, I would say we’re down about 25%.

Bridgette: Yeah. Yeah. And so, this is a place that requires great maturity and skillfulness and resilience, right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: And so, if we work on being self-differentiated, which we’ve talked about, right?

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: And really bringing self-awareness, self-definition, self-regulation to our own behavior, then we can enter into these conversations skillfully, and it really benefits our leaders.

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: But it’s a work in progress, right?

Irvine: Oh, totally. Yes. And every time there still is that angst around it, but I think as well, those that are able to have the courage, I think it really impacts them in such a wonderful way. I think it really expands their ability to be a leader and expands their self-confidence, so I think it is an important skill that we develop.

Bridgette: I agree. And so, to our listeners, if there’s a conversation you’ve been thinking about or are considering having with your boss, we really encourage you; have it, plan well, and take into consideration all of the tips we’ve just mentioned. And then have it, and if you do, let us know how it goes.

Irvine: Oh, yeah. Very important. So, Bridgette, we always end each episode with a practice. So, I’ll hand over to you. What do you think would be a good practice for this episode?

Bridgette: A long time ago, I came across an acronym, Disc, D I S C, that is a framework for having these conversations, particularly with an underperforming employee. You could use it, really, as a framework for any conversation, but let’s focus it on that. Because I think that, yes, our fears get in the way, but sometimes we, actually, don’t know how to have the conversation. We’re like; I don’t even know where to start, right? So, this gives you a template, a map. All right?

So, each letter stands for a part of the conversation, D I S C. Now, before you start with D, which is describe the gap between what they’re doing and what is desired or expected. You do have to start the conversation on a note that clearly telegraphs you’re on the same team with them, that you’re committed to their success, and that’s why you’re having this conversation, right? In other words, I’m a friend, not a foe. And whatever you say there has to be genuine or they’ll see right through it, but it’s really important to establish that you are sharing this for the sake of their success. All right. So, that’s how you start.

Now, D, describe the impact. And you just very clearly and very straightforwardly tell the person and describe behaviorally what that gap is. What are they doing and what is it that you expect them to be doing or hope to see them do? And you lay it out succinctly and clearly, right? So, that’s D. I, is then really important, because you also have to speak to the impact that gap is having on them, on others. Remember, Irvine, the example you gave where you asked that person, well, what’s the impact? Is this behavior impacting the team? And he goes, oh, yeah.

You see, a lot of times the person who’s underperforming or not hitting the mark, does not really see the impact, and we have to spell it out. How’s it impacting them, their team, you, right? Okay. And then we stop talking and we ask a question. And that’s, S. S is solicit their point of view. You’ve told them what the gap is and what the impact is, and so you say, I’m curious, what are your thoughts about what I’ve shared? And what’s getting in your way? And you let them talk. And you ask some clarifying questions and you engage with them with deep listening to really get clear about what is, actually, going on and what’s getting in their way.

And then you end with C. And C is a commitment, choosing of a next step, right? So, you can look at C as commit, or C as choose a next step. Too often we end these conversations with, okay, so, yeah, great, why don’t you work on that. And it just leaves it dangling.

Irvine: Yeah, yeah.

Bridgette: Instead, it’s like, Hey, you know what? Why don’t you and I plan to check in every two weeks for a bit and see how this is going, I want to be a resource to you. Right? So, that, I think, is a missing piece, that C part is often not tied up well. So, that’s Disc. So, Irvine, that’s my practice.

Irvine: I love that. I love the practical steps and what I love about it as well, it, actually, ties into something we began with, which is your own functioning. So, begin with your own functioning, begin with yourself. And, kind of, a lot of this really helps you begin with that area in mind, which so often we don’t; we put all our energy, of course, into the other person. So, thanks for that, I think that’s a wonderful way of remembering and giving us a process, actually, as we prepare.

So, this has been a great conversation, Bridgette, it’s evoked many memories, in me, of conversations, and also, I think really got to the core of so many struggles that we hear in our coaching sessions with people who want to have these conversations, know they have to happen, and yet struggle with them. And, hopefully, the episode today has given people some practical ideas on how to approach these conversations. Thank you for listening, everyone. This is certainly a topic I am sure that colleagues and friends would, probably, love to hear, because this issue impacts every person. If you’re a human and you’re breathing, there are conversations that are difficult and that we struggle with.

So, please, feel free to share this episode and spread the word on this podcast. This is really the core of what we’re trying to do, is really to help people with areas in their life that are anxious and how they can function in a more holistic way. I want to say that the next episode, which we’re looking forward to, is all about stepping into your power. We’re going to be airing this in the new year, so, I think, it’s a good way, 2023, step into your power. So, Bridgette, thank you for an amazing conversation today. I look forward to seeing you in the next episode and, everyone, have a wonderful two weeks and, hopefully, the words of wisdom today will help you have, perhaps, a courageous conversation over the holiday period.

Bridgette: Thanks, everybody. Thank you, Irvine.

Irvine: Okay, bye-bye now.

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