Overwhelmed and ill prepared… that’s how I was feeling. I had undergone hip replacement surgery, but the bone socket partially crumbled during the procedure, so the operation was much more complicated than expected. The doctor then ordered me to rest for six full weeks; consequently, when I was finally released for rehabilitation, my left leg muscles were virtually useless.
During my first visit to the trainer, he said something profound. He told me my core was weak. He was referring to my stomach and back muscles, a central resource of strength. He suggested we focus first on building my core. To tell the truth, I hadn’t given much recent thought to those muscles. My overwhelming and immediate concern was my left leg, so I felt we should focus there. My trainer, however, convinced me that the true solution to my problem would not be found solely in my leg. In order to get back all my strength, including the strength in my left leg, I needed to begin elsewhere. I needed to begin with my core.
As a management consultant traveling the country helping companies improve performance, I get frequent requests for help from businesses that already have a sense of what their problem is. Just as often, I find that the solution involves strengthening the core. Unlike my physical therapist, however, when I use the term strengthening the core, I’m refering to a very special, key competency which is integral to effectiveness and is also a central resource of strength. I’m talking about the willingness to have those hard conversations.
Here is what I mean. Many times I get a call asking for my consulting services because a firm is struggling both to develop a particular strategy and to effectively execute it. The Managing Partner believes he needs a better strategy. I believe his firm needs to be more skilled at the art of difficult conversations. Much like my rehabilitation, the problem and the fix may not seem closely connected at first. When that Managing Partner and his people strengthen the core competency of being able to say what really needs to be said, without destroying the ability to work together, it is amazing how much more effective both strategy and execution become.
Although my surgery and rehabilitation were quite challenging, they have led to a dramatic increase in my overall strength. No longer overwhelmed, I now feel strong enough to handle challenges. The same can be true of your organization. That core competency of being effective in the art of difficult conversation is vital to any successful organization. Companies are made up of people who need candor to define their business models, to define their culture, to define roles and responsibilities, and to hold one another accountable. It is sad how truly crippled many organizations become due to their inability to handle those difficult conversations. My encouragement to you and your company is to build your core!
Do you sometimes feel unheard or unable to communicate your feelings in emotionally charged environments? How often do you feel overwhelmed and unprepared to have that critical conversation? Have you ever had to walk away from a difficult conversation with your boss, co-worker, or spouse overwhelmed, knowing it could’ve gone differently? The inability to communicate with confidence may be greatly hindering your success.