Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The need for "brave conversations"

Was talking with a coaching friend this afternoon when he used the phrase "brave conversation."

He was referring to the difficult conversations that are sometimes necessary in coaching and in life.

Patrick Lencioni, who I've posted about here in the past, has written a lot about our fear of conflict. According to Lencioni, "many of us are taught to avoid conflict at work at almost any cost. It's as though one of the unstated goals of doing business is to avoid uncomfortable interpersonal situations."

The problem is, "avoiding productive conflict leads to two of the most poisonous elements of organizational life: politics and mediocrity. Avoiding constructive conflict around an issue breeds destructive conflict around people."

Lencioni contends that when we don't express our feelings about sticky issues, we tend to "get frustrated and those concerns leak out emotionally." Of course, it takes the kind of brave conversations that my friend was talking about to resolve these issues.

These kinds of conversations can be really uncomfortable, but they're absolutely necessary, whether you're talking about a husband-wife, father-son, or coach-player.

Instead of ignoring problems or "elephants in the room," Lencioni believes that "leaders need to mine for conflict. They need to probe for areas of disagreement." In his words:

Conflict is an essential building component of a high-performing organization. While it can be uncomfortable at times, productive conflict is a competitive advantage that any team should desire, even if it comes at the expense of a little temporary interpersonal discomfort.