June 5, 2008

Leading through conversation

Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to accomplish. Like having a difficult conversation that may change the course of events.

In the work setting, people are always confronted with the decision to speak or not speak their minds---"Should I give my opinion on this controversial issue?" "Do I tell my manager I have concerns about x ?" "Should I put myself out there in the team meeting, and be the person to raise criticisms regarding our present strategy?"

We all have a conversational style which can work well in some situations but not others. Some of us are too blunt, others too quiet or evasive, and most fall somewhere in between. But speaking with an authentic voice and saying what really needs to be said is surprisingly difficult. Yet, that is what really sets a leader apart from others. It involves courage, tact and interpersonal savvy. It usually involves some risk. But the payoff in the long run can be immense.

If you are a business leader and you are not confident about your ability to communicate effectively, you may want to get some advice, coaching or feedback from others. Carefully observing people who are particularly effective in conversation can also be instructive. Or, you might just want to give it a try, push yourself a little beyond your comfort zone. What's the worse that could happen? OK, I suppose you could get fired, but how likely is that really?????

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