Most people do not like conflict. Let’s face it, conflict is uncomfortable. It can induce stress. It is something many of us dread. We fear that delving into conflict isn’t “nice.” But what we can overlook is that being nice can often be an excuse for being cowardly.

The doctor who tells you that you have cancer must share unpleasant information. It isn’t nice to talk about cancer. But to not talk about it can cost you your very life. If I don’t know I have cancer, I cannot take the actions that give me a fighting chance to overcome it. Being nice to avoid an unpleasant conversation is, in this instance, malpractice. It is allowing discomfort to come before the well-being of the patient. Not loving, that’s for sure. Honestly, not even nice. Just cowardly.

In our work lives we all need feedback. We need and deserve to know how we are doing. The same is true of those we lead.
When a person is released, it should never be a shock. Conversations should have been taking place before the inevitable came about. The same is true of those who excel. They should know they are doing a great job. But to be honest, talks with those who excel are usually not the difficult conversations

We must care enough to talk about the real issues with our people. In her book Radical Candor author Kim Scott discusses the two key elements that bring about change:

  • Caring Personally
  • Challenge Directly

When feedback, input, or criticism comes from a place of caring, both parties usually know it. Often the conversations we have that require bravery can be a game-changer for good. Sometimes we learn of a personal situation that has impacted work performance where we may be able to provide potential resources or solutions. Perhaps we are able to cast vision or belief in an employee that inspires them to dream and imagine beyond what they have dared for themselves, just because of what we see in them. In other cases it may be that we come to the mutual conclusion that this is not the right spot for them, and that the time is right for them to seek something more in alignment with their gifts and passions. Honestly, isn’t that a win, too?

We see this in the sports world. If you participated in competitive sports, think back on the coaches you appreciate the most. The ones who believed in you, and got the most out of you. What do you still to this day remember fondly? Was it being coddled, or challenged? When your coach pushed you, how did that benefit you? Was he or she offered criticism or input? How did you respond? When you think back on coaches who cared, how did they treat you? And what do we often see when a coach has given up on a player? They ignore them, stop offering input, stop coaching, because the efforts seem to be falling on deaf ears.
So, you know that conversation you have been putting off having with one of your reports? Summon up the courage and do it, today.

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