Avoid Avoidance: Facing Tough Conversations Head On

Avoid Avoidance: Facing Tough Conversations Head On

I'd call tough conversations unpleasant facts of business and life. They're also one of those things that a lot of folks want to avoid. The problem is, that avoiding tough talks only makes things worse.

Tough Talks at the Office

It's a prime time for tough conversations today. As businesses recover from the recession years, they look at what they need to move forward - and to stay profitable. A lot of businesses need tough conversations, especially regarding their staff resources. Who are they going to hire? How are the new hires going to fit into the organizational structure? Who needs to wear a different hat, and who needs to get rid of some of theirs?

Other businesses need tough conversations with vendors, shareholders, or partners. Whatever the case, tough talks need to happen… quickly - not avoided.

Tough Talks at Home

In my experience, it's even harder to have tough talks in your personal life with spouses, children, relatives, friends, and others. But no matter how hard these talks are, they're needed just as much as tough conversations in business.

Sometimes tough talks blur the line between both business and personal. Maybe you're in a family business and you need to have a tough conversation with a relative who doubles as a colleague. Maybe you need to have a tough talk with your best friend, who also happens to be your business partner. Anyone who has ever been a part of a family business knows just how hard it can be to balance both the relationship and the books - without candor in the boardroom, there's no hope of doing either.

No Matter Where You Need Them, Don't Avoid Them

Some people have a natural tendency to avoid tough conversations. They don't like confrontation. But if you avoid tough talk, you let the problem incubate, and it only grows worse. In effect, you may be enabling the aberrant behavior. If you're a business leader who avoids tough conversations, the people who depend on you will see you fail to live up to their expectations. For example, if an employee refuses to follow a new mandate but is never reprimanded, it will cause others to lose confidence in you, and in your company. It will affect your whole culture.

Avoidance only makes personal problems worse too. Whatever behavior is causing the angst or issue continues if you do not address it, because the person behaving dysfunctionally or improperly is getting the implicit message that what they're doing is fine or acceptable. Face the tough conversations head-on. Don't let problems fester and grow worse.