What is a Courageous Conversation?

In courageous conversations, whether in the context of performance appraisal, mentoring, or coaching, individuals are encouraged to express their views openly and truthfully, rather than defensively or with the purpose of laying blame. Integral to courageous conversations is an openness to learn.

What is an example of a Courageous Conversation?

Typical examples include handling conflict, confronting a colleague, expressing an unpopular idea on a team, asking for a favour, saying no to a request for a favour, asking for a raise, or trying to have a conversation with someone who is avoiding you. Research shows that many women find such “courageous conversations” challenging.

How do you frame a Courageous Conversation?

  • Set your intentions clearly.
  • Create a container.
  • Prepare facilitators & groups.
  • Set it up.
  • Open with vulnerability.
  • Have the discussion.
  • Come back together and close.
  • Support each other.

What does the research tell us about Courageous Conversations?

According to the work of Susan Scott there are The Seven Principles of Fierce Conversations:

  1. Master the courage to interrogate reality. Are your assumptions valid? Has anything changed? What is now required of you? Of others?
  2. Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real. When the conversation is real, change can occur before the conversation is over.
  3. Be here, prepared to be nowhere else. Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person.
  4. Tackle your toughest challenge today. Identify and then confront the real obstacles in your path. Confrontation should be a search for the truth. Healthy relationships include both confrontation and appreciation.
  5. Obey your instincts. During each conversation, listen for more than content. Listen for emotion and intent as well. Act on your instincts rather than passing them over for fear that you could be wrong or that you might offend.
  6. Take responsibility for your emotional wake. For a leader there is no trivial comment. The conversation is not about the relationship; the conversation is the relationship. Learning to deliver the message without the load allows you to speak with clarity, conviction, and compassion.
  7. Let silence do the heavy lifting. Talk with people, not at them. Memorable conversations include breathing space. Slow down the conversation so that insight can occur in the space between words.

Why is it important to have Courageous Conversations?

Having courageous conversations allows everyone to share in this discomfort in the very best way. When people are willing to do the work of challenging and uprooting their assumptions, it brings awareness to and validates these difficult experiences.

What are the benefits of having Courageous Conversations?

  • Helps you understand others’ perspectives, and broadens your diversity and inclusion awareness and understanding.
  • Helps you gain understanding of intent and impact.
  • Helps you address biases and non-inclusive behaviours.
  • Helps you be open to, and receptive of, feedback.
  • Helps you live up to the kind of culture we want at our company.
  • Enables you to have more effective, productive and collaborative conversations up, down. and across organisational levels.
  • Builds transferable skills you can use inside and outside of the workplace.

Key Questions to Reflect on a Leader:

  • What does having a Courageous Conversation mean to you?
  • How psychologically safe do you feel in your organisation and how might this impact your ability to have Courageous Conversations?
  • How secure is your sense of belonging in your organisation, and how might this impact your ability to have Courageous Conversations?
  • How often do you listen to learn and understand, not to interject?
  • If you avoid having Courageous Conversations, how does this cause bigger problems for you?
  • What are the ideal conditions for holding a Courageous Conversation?

Articles

Better Up

What does it take to have courageous conversations at work?

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Elevate Network

Radical Candor: Part 2 — Breaking it Down

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Great Place to Work

Courageous Conversations at Work: A Guide To the Discussion You Are Scared Of

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Insight Business Works

Courageous Conversations: The Challenges for Women

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LearnLight

Leadership 101: How to Have Courageous Conversations at Work

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Lifehack

7 Keys to Having a Courageous Conversation With Anyone

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MindTools

Radical Candor – The Truth Doesn’t Always Need to Hurt

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WorkPlacePlus

What is a Courageous Conversation?

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Blogs

Brene Brown

Let’s Rumble

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Brene Brown

Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind

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Courageous Conversations

Courageous Conversations blog

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Teach Better

Have Courageous Conversations

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Radical Reading

The Blog

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Fierce

The Fierce Blog

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Books

Bourgeois, Trudy

Equality: Courageous Conversations About Women, Men, and Race to Spark a Diversity and Inclusion Breakthrough

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Brown, Brene

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

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Conner, Yana. Ducksworth, Chantelle. Fields, Lisa

Courageous Conversations: The Tools You Need For the Conversations in the Culture

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Grenny, Joseph. Patterson, Kerry. McMillan, Ron

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High

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Hines, William and Carolyn

What to Say and How to Say It: 72 Courageous Conversations for the Workplace

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Scott, Kim

Radical Candor: Fully Revised and Updated Edition: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean

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Scott, Susan

Fierce Conversations: Achieving success in work and in life, one conversation at a time

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Scott, Susan

Fierce Leadership: A bold alternative to the worst ‘best practices’ of business today

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Singleton, Glen

Courageous Conversations About Race A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools and Beyond

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Listen

Courageous Conversations About Our Schools

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The Courageous Conversations Podcast

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Elevate with Robert Glazer

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Fierce Podcast Hub

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The Radical Candor Podcast

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Unbeatable Mind Podcast

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Resources

Brene Brown

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Fierce Inc

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Radical Candor

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The Courageous Conversation Compass

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The Ontario Leadership Framework: Engaging in Courageous Conversations

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Watch

Flowplayer

The Four Agreements of Courageous Conversations

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Glenn Singleton

Courageous Conversations about Race

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HumanNature AtWork

Courageous Conversations At Work: What’s the One Conversation…

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Lauren Mackler at Harvard

Difficult Conversations

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Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

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Personify Leadership

Courageous Conversations

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What People Say

If you are looking to work with someone who has an infectious passion for making positive change happen, you will love working with Hannah. She has a wealth of experience at a senior leadership level and is hugely committed to the diversity agenda. I have benefitted personally from Hannah’s wisdom and guidance on these issues on a number of occasions.

Andy Buck

Founding DirectorLeadership Matters

When it comes to authentic and courageous leadership, Hannah is unbeatable. Her value-driven approach allows her to be precise and focused whilst taking an empathic approach. One of the leadership traits I admire the most in Hannah is her commitment to asking the difficult questions that others avoid, and this has been evident in her work encouraging Diverse Leaders. She is fearless and highly skilled at driving change, even in complex situations. Hannah is a catalyst and can cause a mindset shift in one conversation. Her leadership creates leaders.

Jaz Ampaw-Farr

Author & Speaker

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