Lead Difficult Conversations


In my recent book, Management Mess to Leadership Success, I share 30 challenges every leader faces, drawn from FranklinCovey’s suite of offerings in our All Access Pass. Challenge 12 is Lead Difficult Conversations, and I’m especially passionate about this leadership competency. I write in the book about its non-negotiability—as a leader, if you can’t summon the courage to talk straight and discuss the undiscussables, then you can’t be a leader. You need to step down from the position immediately.

Too often leaders are promoted without understanding that one of their key roles is providing clear and considerate feedback to their direct reports, and as appropriate, to others who can benefit from it as well. It’s not natural for many leaders to move beyond their comfort zones and address team members’ blind spots. We want to be liked; we have enough process, strategy, budget and client issues to face; and who wants more problems to solve? But if you don’t address them, then nobody else will either, and then you perpetuate a person’s brand as uncollaborative, argumentative, unilateral, scarce, tardy, mean, abrupt…fill in the blank with thousands of other interpersonal traits we all have, you and me included!

One of the best legacies you can leave with your team is to be “that leader.” That leader who cared enough about them to talk straight and with humility address specific behaviors that are getting in their way. Often these behaviors are strengths that have been overplayed and have surprisingly become weaknesses.

Of all the positive feedback I’ve received as a leader (and yes, there’s been plenty of negative feedback as well), by far are the compliments that I was the one boss who showed the courage to tell them the truth about their (fill in the blank).

You owe it to your team members to invest the time and gently but directly talk about what they may not be seeing in themselves. If addressed, it could change their brand and career trajectory. And there’s a bonus: more likely than not, those same entrenched behaviors may be tripping them up in other areas of their lives, and the feedback may help them as spouses, partners, parents, friends, siblings, committee members, etc.

Listen carefully to this interview with Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, as she recounts an especially vulnerable and pivotal experience she had with her leader, Sheryl Sandberg, during their time at Google. I think it’s profound. What a gift Sheryl extended to Kim.

Go from a management mess to a leadership success. Join Scott Miller for a live webcast and learn more about the 30 challenges that all leaders face. 

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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