Courageous Conversations: How Well Are You Having Them?

Susan S Freeman Blog


One of the great privileges of coaching my clients is the opportunity I have to “listen in” on what they are learning.  Coaching conversations offer a container for exploring what is impacting them and others, and how they might adjust how they see so they can engage differently in the future.  Clients can and often do have “aha” moments within a coaching conversation.  That’s when we know something new is taking shape.  I have many such moments in the course of a week.  Yet one recent conversation struck me as being worthy of sharing because the challenge is a common one.

My clients are high-powered, smart, successful individuals.   They are typically “driven and “ambitious.”

What can be surprising is the degree to which they are uncertain about how to communicate with others with courageous conversations that don’t feel dictatorial or pushy. 

This can make all the difference between success and failure.

I don’t mean that my clients don’t know how to speak.  What I mean is they are often unaware of how the way they are being might impact the conversation.  I recently had a conversation in which a leader realized that the reason he wasn’t speaking up to his boss was because he believed he would be “pushing,” and that wasn’t an appropriate stance for him to take.

We talked about a recent example in which he backed down and away from a situation that had implications for the company’s course.  During our call, we spoke about what he thought the difference was between being persuasive and being dictatorial.

We concluded that conversations start with intention.

What is your intention?  Is it to show up with courageous authenticity to contribute to an inquiry, or is to be right and win?

We discussed a simple system that he could use to remind himself of how to collaborate conversationally when there is the potential for conflict.  Ask the following:

  • For the sake of what are we collaborating today? Establish your care.
  • What do we need?
  • What do you need?
  • What do I need?
  • What are the options for our consideration?

Using these questions as jumping off points for your conversations will allow for co-creation with a colleague or a boss.  In so doing, your curiosity can be put to use, and may be persuasive to the other.

Lean in, step up, and use your voice for the good of your team and your organization.  You will engage in a leadership practice that increase trust, collaboration and creativity.

And that’s a leader everyone wants on their team.

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