The Elusive “Right” Conversation in Today’s Workplace

4 min read · 7 years ago


TheRightConversationHave you ever been frustrated and confused by recurring conversations that never achieve your intended results?

If so, the answer could be that you are having one of the three “wrong” conversations.

Specifically, it is likely you’re having the “wrong” conversation with the “right” person. (See diagram)

Finding the “right” conversation is trickier than it seems.

Here are two examples that provide insight into how easy it is to miss-identify the “right” conversation.

“Wrong” Conversation with the “Right” Person Case Study #1:

A project manager was working with an outside vendor to acquire appropriate resources to move a project forward.

Early in the relationship the vendor suggested resources that the project manager agreed were appropriate, but her boss didn’t.

The project manager felt strongly that the vendor was providing a solution that was in the best interests of the project manager’s company.

The project manager’s boss disagreed.

The ensuing debate eroded the trust between the project manager and her boss.

As the project manager fought for the vendor’s solution her boss began to think she didn’t have her company’s best interest in mind and was looking out more for the vendor.

In our coaching conversation the project manager told me she needed to have a conversation to influence her boss regarding additional project resources to be secured from this vendor.

Immediately I recognized this as the wrong conversation.

It was only going to be a replay of the previous conversations, further eroding this project manager’s relationship with her boss.

I redirected her towards the “right” conversation. Which would be to dig deeper into the issue of why the boss doesn’t feel she has the company’s best interests in mind.

The project manager needed to seek to understand what evidence her boss was using to develop this belief.

In this instance the one “right” conversation had to be about rebuilding trust with the boss and show him she did have the company’s best interest in mind so that the project manager could be successful in future conversations.

“Wrong” Conversation with the “Right” Person Case Study #2:

A woman came up to speak with me after my keynote address on The 7 Deadliest Communication Sins excited that the talk helped her decide to have a direct and candid conversation with a woman on her team.

After thanking her, I asked a question to seek to understand the situation deeper.

She told me that this woman was very passive-aggressive and in the recent past had failed to follow-through on commitments she made.

The woman from my audience was excited to have another conversation to again gain that commitment to the desired behaviors.

I immediately told her that was the “wrong” conversation to have with this “right” person.

She looked at me like a deer caught in headlights.

I asked her what gave her confidence the woman would follow through this time.

After receiving another blank stare I told her “the right conversation is about this woman’s lack of follow through on previous commitments.”

This is a much more difficult conversation. She would be calling out this woman’s inability or unwillingness to fulfill agreed commitments.

Alternatively, this could be framed as more of a coaching conversation to seek to understand the roadblocks to the follow through and to offer help to overcome them.

Otherwise, it would become nagging by asking again, and again, for the same commitment.

Commit to the “Right” Conversation

Finding the right conversation is challenging, but vital for organization success.

Commit to it!