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Get Tough Subjects Out in the Open

March 3, 2014

It’s easy to be critical of leaders who can’t face the facts, but in truth, most of us engage in denial at one time or another, usually without knowing it. To encourage better examination of tough topics, find ways to encourage dialogue when complex issues are on the table. Denial is less likely to occur when teams look at the situation from multiple angles, challenge underlying assumptions, and construct a better picture of what’s really going on.

Also, don’t assume that everyone sees the world through the same lens as you. Facts and data are usually open to interpretation, and people have different underlying criteria for how they analyze them. We all emphasize some things and discount others, based on past experiences, personality, and tolerance for discomfort. To minimize conflict and increase collaboration, use a 5-step communication strategy:

  1. Establish Focus
  2. Discover Possibilities
  3. Plan the Actions
  4. Remove Barriers
  5. Recap

Partially adapted from “The Dangers of Denial” by Ron Ashkenas.

Skill Development Solution

Managers and teams that are skilled in using the 5-step conversation model are better at enabling discussions that lead to solutions, reducing conflict and achieving goals. The Nielson Group offers half-day executive training and two-day manager and team training that result in an immediate ability to apply the 5-step conversation model upon returning to work. Clients report a complete and systemic change in the culture when the 5-step conversation model has been implemented organization-wide. Result: Greater collaboration, project milestones met and consistent achievement of goals.

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