Tag Archives: communication

3 Skills to Better Handle Difficult Conversations

difficult conversations

Difficult conversations are usually made even more difficult because of a lack of specific information/data and because they often end in a blame game. At the end of the day, no one has the legitimacy, even at work, to judge me as a person. However, managers are legitimate in assessing my performance.

1. Inquire. Ask how they see the situation, using as open ended questions as possible. This will provide you with relevant contextual information about how the other person sees whatever situation you need to discuss. Moreover, it shows that you are care enough about them to be willing to include them in solving the issue.

2. Acknowledge. Remember that the only judge as to whether you listened to someone is that someone, not you.Acknowledging shows you care about the other person point of view, makes sure you have understood it properly AND reassures them that they were listened to. There is a perfect example about the importance of acknowledging. We have all attended important one on one discussions before where the other person is typing away as we speak. What impression did this make on you? Did you feel listened to? The thing is, the other person might have listened and understood you, but because of the lack of acknowledgment, you probably left the room unsure as to whether you message really went through.

3. Advocate. Now comes the time to actually say what you have to say. In my opinion, this is the one most people struggle. People are entitle to express their opinions but they must be careful not to pass these opinions as absolute fact. Saying that “we must do this” or “You have to do that” closes the door on any differing opinion from  yours, and literally shuts the conversation down. This is what makes these conversations even difficult. One person’s or manager’s  opinion is based on his/her observation and facts that they have access to. Nobody is omniscient so nobody has an absolute answer, especially when working in highly complex environments like today’s corporate world. A more successful way to advocate is actually to acknowledge this. “In my opinion, ….” or “Based on my observation/the facts I gathered…”

The timing of advocacy is crucial. the underlying principle behind these 3 skills is that others will, usually, be more willing to listen to you once you have listened to them first. However, and that’s where mindfulness is important, if you realize that people are not ready to accept your opinion yet, go back to Inquiry to open them up and to identify potential other issues that might be impacting your conversation.

The content for this post is adapted from Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen’s books Handling Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most


Post by Guillaume Gevrey – Director & Principal Consultant C2C

Soft Skills: The “Hard” Skill Of Leadership


Leaders do not compel people to follow; they inspire them to desire the same results as they do.

Corporate leaders need to know their business, their customers, and have the ability to execute a strategy effectively. In the current era of fast paced change, leaders not only need to stay current with the trends in the industry, but also have the ability to predict the future trends as well.

A recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, deployed over 600 employees working at manager levels and above, were asked to pick from a list of 14 leadership competencies, and the top three that emerged were:

  1. Building relationships
  2. Good communication
  3. Creating an environment of trust and respect

Building relationships is clearly important since at the heart of all businesses is people. The ability of relating to others is what helps in executing their strategy. Good relationships with employees, customers, and suppliers, can be the differentiator between great leaders and others.

Communication skill is often taken for granted, as most people believe that they are good at making presentations or speaking in public. Communication skill is not just one way information dissemination, it really is all about the ability to listen, and plan and act such that people know that they have been heard. Leaders often need to take some tough decisions. Often such decisions would be accepted, if there is proper explanation of why it is being taken.

The context of leadership has changed dramatically in recent times. In the current situation, customers are harder to find, even harder to retain; profit margins are lesser; employees are overworked and stressed. As a result, leaders need to handle themselves in this complex and challenging environment. This means leaders have to be highly self- aware, display high empathy, and be active listeners; to be able to effectively lead. These soft skills often collectively termed “Emotional Intelligence” are very important to a growing organization. Good communication skills, thus requires one to be a good listener and being able to articulate.

Creating an environment of trust and respect really has many things tied in. It leans a lot towards values – not just stated – but practiced. Being approachable and friendly is the starting point that helps breed trust and respect. Balancing tasks vs. results based on others’ feelings becomes important. Establishing values and living them become extremely important too. It is said that a leader’s actions are always amplified, thus walking the talk becomes very critical to the success of a leader. Creating an environment of trust and respect means a leader must actively demonstrate trust and respect in every interaction with employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders.

These soft skills would enable leaders walking their talk which is so critical to great leadership, that we could term these as “core” skills or “hard” skills of a leader.

Post by Sanjay Dugar – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

4 Steps To Being assertive? Not That Simple

assertiveness dilbertIn my (almost) 15 years of experience, I have conducted numerous interventions around the topic of assertiveness with different industries, different geographies and different demographics. In all these interventions the most common expectation I have heard from learners is “I want to be more assertive so that I can have my way more often.” And that’s what most people get wrong. Assertiveness is not about getting your way; it’s about being able to create a conversation with others in order to understand how you can possibly approach a certain issue in a way that meets everybody’s needs.

Assertiveness is not about the outcome, it is about having the conversation.

2 things are critical to understand in order to be assertive:

The first one is that one’s ability to be assertive is a direct consequence of your self-esteem. Do you truly believe that your opinion, mental model and/or point of view is valuable but also that everyone else’s opinions, mental models, point of views are as legitimate and valuable as yours. People with low self-esteem will often end up pushing their way, at the expense of others, to compensate or let others impose their opinions/ideas on them to avoid difficult conversations.

The second one is linked to how we communicate. Since people’s perception is the reality on which they base their behavior towards us, how we communicate is a critical aspect of how assertive we are perceived to be. There are a few simple things to keep in mind to communicate assertively:

1. Listen. If others don’t feel listened to, they will often think that you do not really care about their needs and could perceive you as aggressive for it. Remember that the best judge of whether listening happened or not is the sender NOT the receiver, so don’t hesitate to paraphrase or rephrase to show you have listened and understood.

2. Be specific. the more unambiguous your message, the easier it is for other people to understand what you need. For example the word “flexible” (possibly one of the most overused word in the corporate world) could mean very different things to different people. What flexibility do you need? Flexibility in working hours, flexibility in process, etc?

3. Describe behavior not people.  For example, “Could you please be more organized.” is a judgment on the person and will, most of the time, make others defensive. Whereas, “I would like to better understand your filing system so that I can find the relevant documents without having to bother you.” is not an attack on the person but a statement of your need.

4. Use “I” statements  when expressing your needs. Take control of what you say. Using “You” statements makes the other person responsible for the need you are expressing and , there again, will often put them on the defensive. For example, “I needed this document from you yesterday and did not get it. Did you meet with any problem? Is there anything I can do to make this happen as I need to send this out before lunch.” instead of “You did not send me the document you were supposed to.”

These 4 basic communication principles will allow others to see your willingness to take their needs into account while also making your needs to them explicit, which is the basis for assertiveness. However, it starts with step one: do you really believe that everyone, including yourself, is valuable?

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – Director & Principal Consultant