The concept of not backing away from tough conversations is not new. I remember reading Crucial Conversations when I was first beginning my leadership journey and really appreciating a lot of the concepts, even though I was just starting to think about when I had been in some of these "crucial conversations" with my principals and what that had felt like.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I find myself realizing that I step into many conversations every day, and my words and action matter. This is true for all of us, but it carries even more weight when I am in a conversation where I am in a leadership position and I'm talking to somebody on my team.
Several days ago, I stepped into what I knew would be a hard conversation. It was the end of the day, I was coming from a meeting on a politically charged issue, and I was asked to join this meeting at the last minute. I probably could have said no, but I knew that wouldn't help, so I said yes. As expected, the meeting was emotional and hard. I have the utmost respect for everybody in that video call, and I believe we have a good relationship, but that doesn't make it any easier when I am the one having to deliver/reinforce an unpopular message. I walked away feeling very unsettled, unsure if my presence had made things better or worse, feeling the loneliness of leadership, and just feeling really sad about the situation.
Luckily, I work with some pretty awesome people. Over the course of the next few days, I received several texts and emails from people in this meeting saying thank you and that they appreciated my leadership, that I clearly cared but held onto the integrity of my position and what I needed to share. What?!? It sure didn't feel good in the moment. But apparently it did do some good for me to be there. (Side note: I wouldn't assume that everyone feels the exact same way, but at least it made a difference to some!) These words from my colleagues were a welcome encouragement and have actually given me confidence to continue to dive into hard topics, rather than running away from them.
The lesson to be learned: hard conversations will occur in life. There's no way around it. But approaching them with love, empathy, honesty, and integrity makes them go a little more smoothly. So I will continue to try to hold that space and that stance in all of the conversations that come this next week, month, and year!