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Three Star Leadership | Wally Bock | Leadership: Make Those Tough Conversations Easier

Tough conversations

If leadership is your job, you can’t walk away from them. Because they're part of your job.
These are conversations about performance and behavior. Most bosses dread them.


This is a professional note extracted from an online article.

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Three Star Leadership | Wally Bock | Leadership: Make Those Tough Conversations Easier

Three Star Leadership | Wally Bock | Leadership: Make Those Tough Conversations Easier


Key Ideas

Tough conversations

If leadership is your job, you can’t walk away from them. Because they're part of your job.
These are conversations about performance and behavior. Most bosses dread them.

Make tough conversations easier

  • Touch base often, to catch problems when they're small.
  • Build relationships through conversations. Your employees will learn about you and whether they can trust you.
  • Have regular one-on-ones with your team members.
  • Solve problems as they appear. The smaller, the easier to handle.
  • Keep tough conversations private, away from distractions.
  • Tailor what you say and do to the person you’re meeting with.
  • Treat people with dignity.


The Art of Confrontation
  • Develop relationships with your team members: that way both of you are more willing to listen.
  • Don’t put it off.
  • Choose a private and safe place.
  • ...
Authentic leadership

Is a management style in which leaders are genuine, self-aware, and transparent. 

An authentic leader is able to inspire loyalty and trust in her employees by consistently display...

Components of Authentic Leadership
  • Self-Awareness: be aware of your trengths, weaknesses, and values and displaying them to your team.
  • Relational Transparency: remain genuine, straightforward, and honest with your team. Display the behavior you hope to see in your employees.
  • Balanced Processing: stick to your values when making decisions, but remain open to discussions and alternatve options.
  • Doing the right thing: focus on doing the right thing for the long-term success of the business, not yours.
3 ways to practie self-awareness as a leader
  • Seek feedback from the environment;
  • Use self-reflection to better understand your behavior;
  • Practice regular self-observation to stay aware of your feelings at all times.
  • Power tips for tough conversation
    1. Build positive relationships: Pat people on the back more than kicking them in the pants;
    2. Tell people they matter by being prepared when they show up
    3. Choose an...
    1:1 meetings
    1:1 meetings

    1:1 meetings matter. It is important to nurture that essential employee-manager relationship. But it still not easy to get right.

    Under pressures, managers are still juggl...

    1:1 category

    The goal of an effective 1:1 is not an update from your direct report or for you to lay down some instructions. It's a conversation. It's a chance to hear about your direct reports' ideas for your product, their career goals, and possibly their opinion of their performance.

    Keep a list of three potential topics ready for discussion. When they say they have nothing to discuss, you can jumpstart the conversation with one of your items.

    Manager's best tool

    Your most precious resource is your own time and energy. When you spend it on your team, it helps build healthy relationships.

    Your job as a manager isn't to give advice or 'save the day.'' It's to empower your reports to find the answer themselves. If you want to understand what's going on, ask. Let her lead the conversation while you listen and probe.

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    Signs of poor communication skills
    • People only approach you with questions or feedback when they absolutely need to do so.
    • If you walk away from a conversation or meeting and can’t remember what the other person said or...
    Do a Self-Assessment
    • Take an honest look at how you communicate. Are you thorough, clear, and factual in how you convey yourself? How consistent are you in how you communicate?
    • Look at how clear you make your expectations—and how open you are to understanding what others expect of you.
    • Assess how do you handle “crucial conversations” that can be emotionally or politically charged.
    Ditch Your Assumptions and Ask

    To be effective in information gathering, you need to let go of assumptions and be aware enough to recognize when you’re jumping to conclusions, making judgments, or using labels.

    Asking curious, open-ended questions encourages dialogue instead of dictating what other people should do or think, And the best communicators listen more than they speak.

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    Don't take credit

    Bad leaders take credit for the good things and pin any blame for bad things to others.

    Good leaders let the credit go to the team and team members. They only call attention to themselves wh...

    Don't call attention to yourself

    Your task is to help your team and team members do good work. You should understand that the mission is important, not you.

    As a leader, you’re just there to make things work better.

    Your coaching style

    Coaching should be your primary tool in leading. If your coaching sessions seem more like you’re the therapist and your team member the patient, you’re doing it wrong. 

    Your team members should pay attention to how it will be different in the future.

    4 kinds of behavior
    4 kinds of behavior

    ... account for 89 percent of leadership effectiveness:

    • Solving problems effectively;
    • Operating with a strong results orientation;
    • Seeking different perspectives;
    Effective problem solving

    Problem-solving - when information is gathered, analyzed, and considered. 

    Difficult to get right, yet this process is a key input into decision making, for both major issues and daily ones.

    Results orientation
    Leadership is about not only developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives but also following through to achieve results. 

    Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the highest-value work.

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    Communication during stressful times
    Communication during stressful times

    Uncertainty has a way to reveal everyone's strengths and weaknesses. During drastic uncertainty, employees will seek more information in order to achieve a sense of certainty. During this unsta...

    Managing the passive communicators
    • Talk to them one-on-one. They will feel more comfortable opening up.
    • Offer multiple modes of communication. Instead of calling on them during a meeting, send them an email afterward.
    • Help them feel psychologically safe at work. Let your team know they won't face negative consequences for voicing their opinion respectfully.

    Passive communicators battle to express their needs and stand by their convictions. This is because they want to avoid conflict. They may be silent during crucial meetings. If they do make a suggestion and it is challenged, they may say, "never mind then."

    Managing the aggressive communicators
    • Outline and enforce boundaries. If they interrupt someone, step in and say, "Please let [Name} finish, and afterward, we'll give you time to speak too."
    • Give them a safe and healthy way to vent their anger. People under pressure are more likely to act out. Pull them aside for a one-on-one time to address their concerns.

    Aggressive Communicators voice their opinions in a straightforward, often blunt way. They often interrupt others, take up significantly more time than others during meetings and don't take into account others' feelings or opinions.

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    The power of morning routines
    • Routines drastically reduce the amount of logistical and psychological friction in between us and our goals.
    • Good routines are also powerful motivation generators. In add...
    The secret to productive mornings
    ... is to make them easier, not earlier.

    Forget about getting up insanely early every morning.  How much time we have in the mornings is far less important than how we spend the time we do have.

    Prep your day the evening before

    Reduce the number of decisions and tasks you have to do each morning in between waking up and doing your work:

    • Decide on and lay out your clothes for the following day the evening before and gather all other pieces of stuff you need (supplies, equipment).
    • Make your breakfast and lunch the night before and have it ready to grab in the fridge.

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    Empathy doesn’t mean niceness
    Perhaps the only important thing that niceness and empathy have in common is that they’re both learned skills–behaviors that take practice. Beyond that, their resemblance is superficial.
    6 archetypes worth empathizing with
    • Seekers: unafraid to take risks or pivot;
    • Conveners host conversations and thrive to create the right circumstances for perspective taking. 
    • Sages value presence and make an effort to remain in the “now”.
    • Cultivators see the long game, the big-picture.
    • Inquirers ask deep questions and  gain perspective through inquiry.
    • Confidants listen and that leads them to connection and understanding.
    • Alchemists:  like to prototype and test ideas experimentally.