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It’s Time to Bring Courageous Conversations to Work

Written by: Betsy Kauffman, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Many of us have encountered uncomfortable situations at work and have been unable or unwilling to speak up and deal with the conflict transparently. This can come in many forms. It could be that you wish you could be honest with your boss that the timeline they set for a certain project is not feasible. It could be that your coworker dominates meetings and does not allow time for others to speak and be heard.

However, instead of dealing with the issue, we either sweep it under the rug or only discuss it privately with trusted peers—allowing the same scenario to play out over and over.


It's time to muster up the courage to bring the passive-aggressive text messages, emails, and water cooler conversations front and center. It isn’t easy, but following the four steps outlined below can help you achieve the desired result.


Confidence should be the first step in this process of courageously speaking up at work. Having confidence is easier said than done. But here’s a trick: Be Captain Obvious. Exaggerate the situation and say something like, “Call me Captain Obvious, but isn’t that proposed solution not really going to address the problem?” This approach not only adds a bit of humor to the situation but it also allows others the chance to chime in, having broken the ice a bit.


Even if you use a more direct approach, simply having the confidence to speak up is vital.


The second step in this process is intent. Intent means knowing and understanding that I want to address a problem or change a situation by speaking up.


Here’s the key with intent: If your intent is positive, it’s more likely that your message will actually be received with an open mind.


Next is delivery. Delivery is about how you decide to frame the message. Successful delivery should be factual, real, and it must always take the receiver's feelings into account. Yes, you do need to consider tactfulness when courageously speaking up!


Finally, we should always strive to seek a solution. We can’t dwell on the problem and waste an entire meeting hashing out why it won’t work or how we got to where we are. We need to identify and clearly state the problem and start brainstorming solutions.


The best organizations are made up of people who have the courage to tackle the tough topics. These conversations are critical, so we are helping ourselves and our organizations by being open and honest.


Call me Captain Obvious, but isn’t that the kind of place you want to work?


Want to learn more? Watch my TED talk launched this week: 4 Steps to Kickstart Honest Conversations at Work


Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Read more from Betsy!

Betsy Kauffman, Executive Contributor, Brainz Magazine

Betsy Kauffman is a globally recognized Leadership and Organizational Agility Coach with more than 20 years' experience working in Fortune 500 companies. Her company, Cross Impact Coaching, helps leaders create innovative, aligned, disruptive agile organizations. Betsy has observed and worked side by side with hundreds of CxO leaders. She has seen just about every variation of how Leadership Teams operate and execute (both successfully and not so successfully). She deeply understands and has experienced firsthand when the team of individuals charged with leading the organization aren't aligned, focused, and working as one; the rest of the organization suffers. She is a published author providing thought leadership to both agile and project management communities and speaks internationally on leadership, corporate culture, and organizational agility. She just completed her first TED talk - “4 Tips to Kickstart Honest Conversations at Work” in September 2020 in conjunction with the TED@PMI partnership and was selected by the TED editors to have her talk brought to the mainstage– check it out at TED.com!

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