Let’s be authentically honest for a moment — I want you to sit back and think about how many times you find an excuse not to have an important conversation.
What rationalizations do you give yourself for validating your avoidance?
Here are some common justifications you may relate to:
This list could go on and on because the truth is, we’re really good at coming up with excuses to avoid tough situations — especially when they involve conversations.
In fact, 70 percent of employees say they avoid difficult conversations with their boss, colleagues, and direct reports, according to Bravely.
But, what happens when we avoid these important moments? What if missing the conversation is riskier than having it?
When you never have the conversation you’re avoiding, each person involved will make up stories about the situation in their mind because they are never invited into the conversation to understand your truth.
Whether it’s your boss never knowing you deeply care about a project or your colleague never knowing that you want your relationship to be better, neither person can know if you don’t have the courage to have a conversation.
When this happens, it can be incredibly costly.
Every single conversation failure each costs an organization $7,500 and more than seven work days.
On the flip side, it’s more economical to have an authentic, failed conversation because they are the beginning steps to a solution, no matter how small they may seem at the time.
When you have failed conversations, the kind that doesn’t go according to your plan, or you don’t get what you had hoped, at least you mustered up the courage and cared enough to take on the conversation — to bring it to that person. This matters.
This creates a place to move forward, a jumping board. The next conversation you have with this person may start with the words, “Last time, I didn’t approach it in the way that I had hoped to…”
This less fearful approach to conversations is not only a good investment for us individually but also for our organizations as well.
When we avoid conversations, it makes our work foggy or ambiguous on our way to success, and any actions we take will require more time and resources or may fail altogether. Especially if we’re not sure where we’re going.
Clarity matters — and the best route to clarity is by having those conversations we’re avoiding and having them effectively.
There are no alternative fixes. When effective conversations happen, miscommunications are either resolved or prevented. Employees feel clear on their roles, goals, and action items, which leads to an increase in employee engagement and more effective work being done, which inevitably leads to overall business success.
Without these conversations, relationships will take a hit because there’s a lack of clarity either individually or organization-wide. Employees won’t feel part of a team and won’t be able to build strong relationships with each other when their directives or goals are unclear.
Instead, they may feel isolated, or even worse, like they don’t belong. This is bad for workplace culture and can lead to unhappy employees.
And when relationships are impacted, so are business results, including revenue. Think about this: 97 percent of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project. Imagine the role clarity would play counteracting this extraordinary statistic.
Clarity cannot happen if you are avoiding conversations. Your bottom line, individual goals, and team goals will all be derailed without clarity.
To begin addressing these problems in your organization, begin looking into areas where lack of clarity shows up. These are three common areas that we’ve often seen:
1. Goals and Purpose
If you don’t know what you’re working towards, your daily actions will have little context.
If employees and leadership have different goals, or if anyone is unclear of what their intended outcomes are, engagement suffers. Have conversations around expectations with everyone involved. Write a “Stump Speech,” as individuals and as a team, answering these questions:
2. Roles and Responsibilities
A formal job description gives employees a general understanding of their role within an organization, but when it comes to day-to-day tasks, that clarity may disappear. This is where delegation conversations are essential.
Delegating effectively can create clarity around, for example, whether an individual owns a certain task item or whether they merely need to weigh in on the task.
Employees need to know where the responsibilities of their role begin and end, and if (and how) those responsibilities might overlap with their coworkers.
3. Poor Conversations
As we’ve discussed, effective conversations are the solution for gaining clarity, and for conversations to be effective, they need to take place frequently and include clarifying questions. No more avoiding!
We have to be willing to communicate what we’re really thinking and feeling. Frequency is especially important when it comes to giving and requesting feedback.
Taking a “when you see it, say it” approach is best, as engagement improves when appreciation is out in the open and employees are clear on potential areas they can improve.
Feedback conversations, in combination with asking clarifying questions whenever anything is unclear, are the two conversational skills that can significantly reduce miscommunication.
When you stop avoiding conversations and create clarity in these areas, you improve engagement, and in turn, you get results.
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