Are you having the conversations you MOST need to have?

October 17, 2017 by

Authentic conversations are an essential part of a high performing culture and effective leadership. Yet why are authentic conversations so rare in the workplace?

Even the thought of having an authentic conversation can ruffle the comfort levels of many. These types of conversations are commonly avoided because of concerns about upsetting others, fear of confronting others, and wanting to avoid the receipt of critical or constructive feedback.

So what exactly is an authentic conversation? A successful authentic conversation conveys the desired message, results in genuine change and improves working relationships. They require deeper honesty and greater emotional engagement than your regular superficial day-to-day conversation. Intentionality, consciousness and thoughtfulness of different communication styles are key when engaging in authentic conversations.  No wonder they can create a sense of fear within us!

When it comes to authentic conversations, whether you’re the initiator or the receiver, courage is required to overcome any fear there may be. The good news is that courage is something you can exercise. By consciously choosing to be courageous and engage in authentic conversations you will continue to build your courage ‘muscle’, your capability and your confidence to do so again.

At SRA Corporate Change we deliberately call these types of conversations authentic rather than’ tough’ or ‘difficult’ because they aren’t inherently negative. Authentic conversations are about giving and receiving recognition as well.   Authentic conversations are often the key to truly moving forward, finding the best decision for the business or unlocking a person or a team’s real potential.   Without these kinds of conversations, we grow ‘elephants in the room’ and we build bridges between people and teams.

SRA Corporate Change works with teams around implementing a higher frequency of authentic conversations within their organisation. It’s important for leaders to acknowledge the rationale for having these conversations to generate buy in, as well as to clarify as a team how they will seek permission and encourage staff to engage. This approach is unique to each team and the culture they want to create but it can be as informal as the whole group agreeing to an informal set of ground rules around the ‘how’.

Tips to go about engaging in authentic conversations in your workplace:

  • Stay focused on your intention – clear out your own emotion around the conversation so that you can approach the conversation in a calm state with a positive intention around improving the working relationship. Keep coming back to this intention and share it so you stay true.
  • Commit to actively listen and understand where the other person is coming from.
  • Be prepared for your perceptions to be wrong. It’s important to recognise that 99% of people want to do the right thing and when they don’t it’s not generally because they haven’t intended to, but rather an honest mistake or a misunderstanding.
  • Be prepared to ask to take a break or reschedule if one of you is becoming too emotional. This is a respectful thing to do for both of you.
  • Accept that you will never get authentic conversations 100% right. You will not be perfect and you will make mistakes. Accepting this makes learning easier and allows you to acknowledge faults, and apologise. Providing a genuine apology is an authentic conversation in itself and is a very powerful way to build trust and respect.

When an organisation embraces authentic conversations as a part of their culture high performance ensues. To learn more about the relationship between courage, trust and high performing teams you may like to read our blog 5 behaviours of an effective team.


Sara Redman

Sara Redman is a Director of SRA Corporate Change, as well as a mentor, coach, facilitator, speaker, MC, and author.

Categories: Communication, Culture, Leadership, Sara Redman