A recent discussion with a client about a business problem they were facing prompted me to dig out this blog post that I wrote back in 2012. It would appear that the problems organisations face as a result of people ‘avoiding’ difficult conversations is as rife as ever. I should not be surprised. People do not like giving or hearing difficult messages, and even those who know that to be true, often lack the skills required to overcome their natural instinct to ‘avoid’, ‘deflect’, ‘normalise’ and ‘tolerate’ the unacceptable. More work is needed in this vital area to raise capability.
Nancy Kline in her superb book Time to Think describes a conversation with a senior civil servant whose department was going through wave after wave of changes to the way work was done and how things were structured. When asked how his managers were coping with all of this, he responded, ‘I have no idea. I don’t ask them.’ When asked ‘Why?’, he said, ‘They might tell me. We couldn’t have that.’ As Nancy goes on to explain, what he was really saying was that “he couldn’t handle that”.
How common is it for managers to shy away from facing up to the reality of what is going on around them, particularly when it might involve a face-to-face conversation with someone? Very common, in my experience. Confronting bad news, delivering home truths, providing feedback on performance, addressing inappropriate behaviour, or challenging resistance to change. All…
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