Conflict happens. It's a normal part of everyday life, whether we like it or not. But, our natural tendency is to avoid conflict. We shy away from tough, challenging and uncomfortable situations all together, thinking that they'll interfere with business and our work. Truth is, avoidance can be detrimental to the overall success of your company and your professional growth.
Research in the UK by Chartered Management Institute found that more than half of workers (51 percent) said they have to deal with a difficult conversation at work at least once a month or more. Despite this regularity, the survey also found that employees and managers don't often have training or experience to tackle these difficult conversations. For such a regular and natural occurrence, we should be more comfortable with dealing with the uncomfortable.
And I, like many of you, had to learn this lesson the hard way. Through experience, I've learned their importance and how to tackle them head on (though I'm still learning more everyday). It's made me a more adaptable and transparent person, and a better leader.
My first presentation after joining HubSpot was for our Dublin office opening. I worked hard on it for weeks, wanting to make the very best impression. But the presentation stated a lot of obvious things about our company rather than being remarkable, and our CEO gave me that feedback directly. While hard to hear the tough feedback being brand new to the company, it was one of the best, most difficult conversations I have ever had. And, it has set the tone in my career at HubSpot because it is one that I constantly refer back to.
The benefits of not avoiding or delaying difficult conversations severely outweigh the potentially negative outcomes. While it may not feel natural at first, with practice and persistence, you can learn to dive into these tough talks with confidence, knowing you'll only grow better because of them.
Feedback Is the Breakfast of Champions
Author and management expert Ken Blanchard explains his famous "Feedback is the breakfast of champions" quote like this: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, without it you won't feel energized. Similarly, without feedback, a company or a person will be starved of improvement because they won't know what they're doing wrong in order to fix it. 65 percent of employees say they wish they could receive more feedback than they currently do. They're hungry for it. And, there's work to do in order to close this gap between what we want and will help us grow, and what we have a hard time giving to others.
Self-awareness has its gaps and having those tough and uncomfortable conversations gives you insight into your blind spots. What's just as important as understanding those blind spots, is the commitment to improve. If you don't, they will continue to pop up throughout your career. Tough feedback can be hard to hear, but the more you hear it - both the positive and the challenging - the more successful you will be in your role and the stronger your relationship will be with your manager and team. Being able to remember back to that tough conversation with our CEO has enabled me to course correct for a more improved and polished future.
Solving for the Customer
In today's business world (and non-business world), nothing is predictable. Customers have more access to information than ever before. And with communication over text and email comes potentially more confusion. In fact, research by UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian found that 7 percent of a message was derived from the words, 38 percent from the intonation, and 55 percent from the facial expression of body language. This shows that we communicate most effectively in real-life and in real-time conversation.
Having those tough conversations promptly, and more importantly, in person or via video conferencing eliminates misunderstandings and sets a company up for success with their employees as well as their customers. When over communication and tackling topics head-to-head becomes a core business commitment, is when you are able to truly solve for the customer.
Preparing for Turbulent Times
When you only talk about the positives and the great times, you don't set yourself up for success when things aren't so great. What happens when you have to make a tough decision around sun setting a product or reviewing an employee? There will be a massive shock to the system with a noticeable ripple effect. But, by providing feedback early and often, those conversations can create a positive ripple effect.
Difficult conversations matter. They allow you to navigate through the good times and bad in everyday business, and it makes you stronger as an individual, a team and as a whole company.