4 Ugly Conversations to Have

Teams long to have the tough conversations, to stare squarely in the face of what’s not working and clear the decks for a remarkable 2019.

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Late in the year is a great time for recognition, celebration, white elephant gifts and other fun. Yes, yes, please do all that, but don’t stop there. The best holiday gift you can give your team is to “own the ugly.” To help your team have the tough conversations they’re longing to have; to stare squarely in the face of what’s not working and clear the decks for a remarkable 2019. Here are four conversations to help your team think more strategically. Own the Ugly: 4 Conversations to Have With Your Team The other day I was facilitating a two-day offsite strategic planning retreat for one of my startup clients. We’d designed a “speed-generation” problem-solving session, where groups rotated through stations to identify the ugly issues that needed to be addressed and worked on real solutions. Within 60 seconds of the first rotation, one group listed every “efficiency” tool their company was using to make “work easier” and then created two columns on their easel sheet–a  “should it stay or should it go” vote.  Everyone who rotated through their station got a vote and indicated what workgroup they were in. By the end of the session, over half of the tools were “voted off the island.” The chairman raised his eyebrows but took the lead in initiating a curious conversation. What executives found was that the tools they had selected one at a time for good reasons all made sense, but the requirements to keep everything up to date were driving people crazy. See also: Top Challenge for HR Teams in 2018   I’m convinced that 40-minute conversation (everyone gladly stayed beyond our promised closing time– even though the beer was being poured for their next agenda item…a holiday happy hour right outside the door) will save thousands of hours of frustration next year. “Why didn’t you raise this before?” Well, “No one asked.” Own the Ugly. Make it safe to talk about what’s not working. It’s getting talked about somewhere. Best to lift it up, stare at it, vent if needed and then figure out what must happen next. 4 Ways to Own the U.G.L.Y. Here are four ugly conversations to have with your team. Ask, and then really listen. U– What are we Underestimating? Competitive pressures? New technology? Risk?  The destruction that new manager is doing to our culture? The opportunity that we “don’t have time for? G– What’s Gotta Go? What are we doing now that doesn’t make sense any more? What processes are more habit than value? What meetings are wasting our time? What’s gotta go for us to be remarkable? L– Where are we Losing? Where are we still under-performing despite our best efforts? Why? Who’s doing it better? How? Y– Where are we missing the Yes? What must we say “Yes” to in 2019? What new opportunities are yearning for our attention? Where must we invest more deeply? See also: The Keys to Forming Effective Teams   Teams admire managers who “own the ugly.” Winning Well managers have the confidence and humility to go there–to start the conversation and then listen deeply to the solutions.
This article first appeared at Let's Grow Leaders.


Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps leaders achieve breakthrough results without losing their soul. She is a keynote leadership speaker, a trainer and one of the award-winning authors of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. Hurt is a top leadership consultant and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers.

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