Who Do You Need to Talk To?

Anyone who works with people knows there are important conversations to be had on a regular basis to maintain a healthy organization. Employees, colleagues, stakeholders, people of influence within or outside the organization–any kind of relationship eventually encounters a significant, but potentially difficult, conversation. No wonder the popularity of books like Crucial Conversations, Difficult Conversations, and Fierce Conversations. Those are just the short titles.

Even though we all know these conversations are necessary, it is so easy to procrastinate. And there are good justifications for postponing…too little time, too much to do, anxiety about the outcome and/or fear that the conversation won’t easily wrap up. In fact, we can reinforce our protective excuses until they become a wall that simply keeps the important conversation from ever happening.

Now is as good a time as any to take steps toward a difficult conversation. Three steps, to be exact:

1. Make a list of the important conversations that you need to have and set a firm deadline for having them. You don’t have to be the COO to feel a responsibility to keep communication flowing in the office. I suspect you can name three people as a place to start. Write it in your planner.

2. Plan your part of the conversation. Rather than hoping you will know what to say and how to say it in the moment, it’s a helpful practice to prepare. Write out key phrases and questions on index cards and take them along.

3. Keep the goal in mind. The purpose of a significant conversation isn’t to persuade another to agree with you, or to push your opinion throughout the project team or office. The goal is to communicate as simply as possible what needs to be said and done for the sake of a healthy organization. It isn’t personal, although good conversations contribute to strong working relationships.

So, who do you need to talk to?