By my own definition, a Bold Conversation is: a discussion that is difficult or confronting, despite the risks.
But first, let’s look at what kinds of conversations can be considered to be “bold” and also what are the risks I am alluding to in the definition.
Bold Conversations are those kinds of conversations that are either confronting or difficult and/or high-stake. Really, those two things are one in the same. If your conversation is going to be difficult, it’s generally because the stakes are high.
Some high-stake conversations that I see, hear and assist to navigate are those such as; performance discussions, job interviews, firing someone, giving feedback, sales negotiations, breaking up with a client, divorce settlements and relationship conflict. Really any conversation that you would rather not have, could be deemed to be a Bold (but necessary) one!
In terms of the risks associated with having a Bold Conversation, these are the reasons we tend to avoid them, especially in the workplace.
We avoid giving (truthful and undiluted) feedback for fear of offending or upsetting someone, or heaven-forbid… litigation! We avoid telling our loved ones what we really think in case it causes an argument or opens a can of worms.
Plot-twist: there is actually a much BIGGER risk in NOT having a Bold Conversation.
Here are 4 downsides to NOT having a Bold Conversation in the workplace.
1. By nature, none of us are mind readers.
The most simplistic example I always use is what I like to call the “food on face” situation. If you’re at a work dinner and you’ve got the good ‘ole bbq sauce on your chin, wouldn’t you want to know? Often, instead of just telling someone about it, we get caught up in the exhausting catastrophizing: should I tell them? Maybe no one will notice. Oh no, now everyone’s noticed. Someone else can tell them. What if they notice it themselves and ask me why I didn’t tell them? I know. Exhausting.
If your work colleague is slacking off, or your boss is coming across as patronising – no point telling everyone else about it. Tell the person who can actually DO something about it. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I am saying that it’s necessary. Or, simply stop complaining about it.
If you’d want to know, chances are someone else would want to know too. Be brave, tell them.
2. People lose trust in you
Telling someone a harsh reality (delivered with respect) will earn you trust. Withholding the information and them calling you on it, will lose you trust.
If you’re ever hit with the “why didn’t you tell me?”… it’s very hard to have your answer of “I didn’t want to upset you” be accepted and frankly, nor should it be.
Be brave. Tell them.
3. Confusion all around
If you don’t tell people the right feedback or you dilute it down, you are confusing. Is your feedback an issue or isn’t it? If you “sandwich it” (link to other article here), people will become lost in your message.
To quote Joran Peterson “We must be precise in our aim. Absent that, we drown in the complexity of the world.” So, don’t be confusing. Be precise. And don’t be a jerk about it J
Be brave. Tell them.
4. Performance won’t improve, neither will productivity.
How do you think the best athletes continue to do better? Are they surrounded by people who only tell them “you’re doing great?” Unlikely. They are surrounded by people informing them (with the best of intentions) of all the ways they can do better.
Imagine if you wanted to excel at something, but no one told you how to do better?
By not knowing how to do better, people won’t do better.
In terms of productivity, specifically making sales, if you avoid the Bold (but necessary) conversation of handling an objection or asking for the order, you won’t make sales. You’ll be less productive and you’ll earn a hell of a lot less than those who are confident and competent in having a Bold sales Conversation.
Be brave. Tell them.
By understanding the risks of avoiding a Bold Conversation, you’ll put yourself in a position to earn trust, build better team cohesion and increase productivity and performance. Plus, as an added bonus, you’ll find it so much easier to communicate with people by being upfront.
Side point: helping organisations with these conversations is some of my most rewarding work, given the major changes you can see when feedback is delivered correctly.
If you would like your organisation to benefit from my trademarked Bold Conversations™ framework, you can contact me here.