Episode 17 Summary: What are Courageous Conversations And How Do You Build the Capabilities of Having Them in Your Organisation?

Welcome to the latest episode of the Steps to Change podcast, where we delve into the realms of learning and development, organisational behaviour, and the art of inspiring change.

In this engaging session, your host, Allen Liedkie, sits down with Paul Mason, the Resource and Planning Director at Steps, bringing over three decades of experience in learning and development. Together, they embark on a deep dive into the critical yet often overlooked topic of courageous conversations in the workplace.

This episode sheds light on what constitutes a courageous conversation, why these discussions are pivotal for effective leadership, and their significance in addressing key issues such as performance management and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through the lens of the Steps To Change model—See It, Own It, Change It, and Live It—Allen and Paul explore practical strategies for navigating these challenging dialogues.

Read on to learn more about holding courageous conversations and find out how they can improve your workplace relations.

What Are Courageous Conversations and Why Are They Important?

Courageous conversations are those dialogues that, despite their necessity, we often shy away from due to their discomforting nature. These are the conversations that carry a weight of urgency and importance, yet they evoke a sense of apprehension, making one feel as though they’re stepping into uneasy territory. Characteristically, they are the discussions that need to happen for growth and clarity but are avoided or postponed because they bring to the fore issues that are easily swept under the rug.

The essence of a courageous conversation lies in its ability to address unspoken or challenging topics head-on. This can range from performance feedback that might not be positive to discussions around topics that are often polarised or sensitive, such as diversity, equity, and inclusion. The term “courageous” doesn’t just signify the bravery required to initiate these conversations but also the constructive intent and positive outcome they aim to achieve.

In the realm of the workplace, the significance of these conversations cannot be overstated. They serve as a cornerstone for transparent and honest communication, fostering an environment where issues are addressed proactively rather than reactively. This openness not only aids in the resolution of potential conflicts but also paves the way for a culture of trust and respect among colleagues and leaders alike.

Furthermore, courageous conversations are instrumental in leadership and management. They embody the essence of true leadership, where difficult decisions and feedback are communicated with empathy and clarity. By embracing these conversations, leaders can guide their teams through challenges, nurture professional growth, and drive organisational success.

Why Do Some People Find Courageous Conversations Challenging?

Delving into the realm of courageous conversations unveils a myriad of challenges that often deter individuals from broaching these essential yet daunting discussions. At the heart of the hesitation lies the fear of conflict and the potential repercussions that might unfold. The anticipation of adverse reactions or the possibility of escalating tensions can be a significant barrier, casting a shadow of doubt and anxiety over the initiation of such dialogues.

Furthermore, the personal vulnerability that accompanies these conversations adds another layer of complexity. Exposing one’s thoughts, concerns, or critiques can feel akin to stepping into an emotional minefield, where the risk of misunderstanding or personal offence looms large.

This particular vulnerability is not just a matter of emotional exposure but also stems from the uncertainty of outcomes. There’s an inherent risk that the conversation might not lead to the resolution or understanding one hopes for, adding to the reluctance.

Additionally, the challenge of navigating power dynamics cannot be understated. In a workplace setting, the hierarchical structure often complicates these conversations, especially when they involve feedback or topics that might challenge the status quo. The fear of reprisal or jeopardising one’s professional standing is a tangible concern that can mute voices and stifle open dialogue.

Moreover, the lack of a supportive culture or framework within organisations for facilitating these conversations can exacerbate the challenges. Without clear guidance or encouragement from leadership, individuals might feel unequipped or unsupported in their efforts to engage in these critical dialogues.

Getting Started with Courageous Conversations

The Steps to Change process offers a structured approach to facilitating courageous conversations within the workplace, ensuring these essential dialogues lead to positive outcomes and stronger workplace relations.

The initial stage of this process involves preparing for the conversation, which is pivotal in setting a constructive tone. This preparation entails understanding the issues at hand and approaching the conversation with empathy and a clear objective, ensuring that both parties are ready to engage in a meaningful exchange.

Following preparation, the next stage focuses on initiating the conversation in a manner that is respectful and non-confrontational. This involves choosing the right time and setting, which can significantly influence the receptiveness of the participants and the overall direction of the conversation. The goal is to create an environment where all parties feel safe and valued, which is crucial for open and honest communication.

Once the conversation is underway, active listening becomes a cornerstone of the process. It’s about giving full attention, acknowledging the other person’s perspective, and showing genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings. This fosters mutual respect and understanding, making it easier to navigate sensitive topics and find common ground.

Finally, the process emphasises the importance of reaching a resolution or developing a mutual understanding. This stage is about collaboratively finding solutions or agreements that respect both parties’ viewpoints and needs. It’s about moving forward with a shared commitment to the agreed-upon actions or understandings, thereby strengthening the professional relationship and enhancing workplace harmony.

Through each of these stages, the Steps to Change process provides a clear framework for conducting courageous conversations, making it possible to address and resolve workplace issues in a constructive and empathetic manner.

Episode 5: What Provides An Effective Feedback Conversation?

Learn More

If you’d like to learn more about the challenges surrounding courageous conversations and discover how they can be beneficial for your workforce, reach out to Steps today! Speak with one of our experts to learn how our methods can be implemented into your business.