Resourced Leaders

'Resourced Leaders' is a premier Australian based Leadership Performance organisation that specialises in working with senior executives, leaders and high performing individuals who aspire to greater levels of personal leadership and success.

This may be a bit difficult to discuss...

Posted by Phil Owens
Phil Owens
Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He
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on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 in Leadership

What would the world be like if every conversation went perfectly?  If we solved problems, communicated our interests clearly and enjoyed the process of discussion with others on important topics.


As you read this, what comes to mind? “I wish!” – or something similar?

Why is it that conversations and discussions don’t go like this?

As part of the ‘Resourced Manager’ training program, I teach an initial module on having ‘difficult conversations’. From the feedback, the value to participants in learning about, and improving their skills in having difficult conversations is immense.  Why is it such an important topic?  Because it appears something that everyone struggles with!

In truth, most people report that conversations are difficult for three reasons:

  • ·         The outcome is uncertain and they feel out of control
  • ·         The conversation is part of a relationship where power, standings or ongoing relationship values mean that the conversation is about more than the ‘topic’
  • ·         The topic or relationship draws on feelings or identity issues which are uncomfortable to deal with.



Think about a recent ‘difficult conversation’ that you had.  Which of these (or perhaps all?) were in play, making a simple communication on a topic so much more?

As we find conversations difficult, we revert to ‘defensive’ responses, which can be summarised as ‘fight, flight, freeze and appease’ – or in conversations, avoidance, bulldoze, brain-freeze and yes-man styles.  Which of these is your default style?  Which ones do you use in which situations?

Understanding ourselves, in particular our style, what feelings and triggers occur for us, and what self-identity issues come into play as we enter difficult conversations allow us to be more self-aware.  We can therefore use more choice in recognising, managing and applying these ‘deeper’ aspects of ourselves in the conversation.

In my workshops, we run through some simple but powerful exercises an role plays to help the participants get a true handle on what is going on for them, ‘below the surface’.

Based on self-awareness, we then need to invoke the right sort of skills in framing the conversation and then having it.  Using a number of elegant models, it is possible to help people get rapid capability to have a difficult conversation comfortably, and get great results.  For instance, applying the IEC model – being clear of your intentions, your expectations and searching for contributing factors in a conversation (and indeed making these explicit), rapidly changes the tone and nature of a ‘difficult’ conversation to a quality discussion.

With other models, extensive role-playing and coaching, people really benefit from finding new ways to have difficult conversations.

For your next ‘difficult conversation’:

  • ·         What is the topic?
  • ·         What ‘feelings’ and ‘self-identity’ issues are present?
  • ·         Is it a discussion about a topic, a relationship, or does it involve both?
  • ·         What is your (and their) intention in having the conversation?
  • ·         What are your expectations?
  • ·         How can you seek contributing factors to draw out the real issues?






A little planning can make a big difference to your outcome.



If you want to learn more about how to successfully negotiate a difficult conversation, or learn other critical business and life enhancing skills, contact me at Resourced Leaders now.


Stay Resourceful



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Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He honed his skills working with executives and leaders around the world, coaching and consulting in over 30 countries, from entrepreneurial start-ups to boards of multi-billion dollar businesses.


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