You’ve heard it said that leaders need to be able to have hard conversations. But maybe you’ve wondered ‘why’? Why is this an essential skill for a leader to develop? 

3 Reasons Why Leaders Need to Have Hard Conversations

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In this episode of the Communication Series, I’m answering a question that came up when I asked for feedback about a resource I’m developing. One of you asked “How can you psyche yourself up to initiate a hard conversation that would be easier to ignore, and why should you bother?

It’s such a good question that I decided to answer it on this podcast episode. We’re going to start with what happens when we don’t have the hard conversations as leaders:

What can happen when we do not have the hard conversations:

Resentment

If you are upset, frustrated, or concerned about a situation, but you do not approach the person and address it with them, you may become resentful. How do I know? Well, because this is probably one of my biggest challenges. 

I have a tendency to sometimes expect other people to know what needs to be done and to do it. And when that doesn’t happen (because people can’t read minds), I can become resentful.

Isolation or avoidance

You may not struggle with resentment, but you might instead isolate or avoid certain people or situations. You isolate from the person with whom you have an issue so that you don’t have to see them or deal with them. It may seem like you are solving the problem, at least temporarily, but the issue will often continue to be a problem if you isolate. 

The avoidance could also turn into passive-aggressive behavior, where you may not even realize what you are doing. It could also mean the loss of a once-valued relationship.

Worry or obsessing

You might be the kind of person who, instead of having the hard conversation, ends up spending a lot of time worrying about it. You may talk to a lot of people about it. This can also turn into gossip if you end up talking to others instead of the person with whom there is a concern. 

The worrying or obsessing may end up causing you to become physically sick, or if gossip is happening, it can end up getting back to the person with whom you had the issue. Often, this will make the situation much worse than if you had addressed it in the first place.

These examples are not an exhaustive list, but I believe they represent some of the most dangerous issues we create when we decide not to have the hard conversations.

In addition, all of these unhealthy responses are connected to unforgiveness and a lack of creating restoration in our relationships. For more on dealing with this issue, go back to episode 74.

3 Reasons Why Leaders Need to Have Hard Conversations

1. It’s Biblical

Throughout Scripture, we can see that God’s desire is for us to have a restored relationship with him, but also that we have restored relationships with other people. 

The principles of avoiding gossip, taking your issues directly to someone and reconciling, as well as forgiveness are all Biblical. These things are not easy, but we can see the guidelines God lays out for us when it comes to conflict resolution in Scripture.

We also see the example Jesus set for us. He did not skirt around the tough topics; in fact, he took them head on. Jesus said hard things both to the religious rulers but also to his disciples and followers.

2. It’s beneficial

Each and every time I have forced myself to have a hard conversation with another person, it has caused me to grow.

Just because it’s beneficial does not mean it’s easy. It can definitely be tough, especially if you have a personality type that tends to want to maintain peace, avoid conflict, or simply keep things fun and upbeat.

Here are some ways it might be beneficial to have the hard conversation as a leader:

  • It could resolve the problem you’re facing
  • It can create healthier relationships
  • It creates a healthier culture

“Resolution does not mean that I get exactly what. But it does mean that we worked through the situation and we came up with a satisfactory outcome for both of us.”

3. It’s bold

It takes courage to have hard conversations, and boldness is essential to leadership. When Holly and I first started the podcast, we created a list of things that we considered to be key to leadership (you can listen to that one on episode 2).

The first one on that list is “Doing things that other people won’t do and showing up when others don’t.”

“Boldness is essential to leadership.”

By being bold, we will be setting an example for those who follow us. We will be showing them that it’s possible. When we step up and lead hard conversations, we will effect change, as I noted before when I mentioned the issue of culture.

As Christian leaders, we should be leading the way in this arena. We should be the ones helping to create a culture where we know how to address and deal with conflict in healthy ways. We have the Bible as our foundation, after all. And we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us!

If you make hard conversations part of your life and leadership, it has the power to be transformational. You can be a part of transforming your relationships, your workplace, your church and even culture as a whole. 

How to Prepare for Hard Conversations

I want to go back to the original question once again that was asked on my survey: “How can you psyche yourself up to initiate a hard conversation that would be easier to ignore, and why should you bother?

I don’t think that you actually need to psyche yourself up for the hard conversations. But I do believe you should be prepared for them, which is likely what this person was getting at.

That’s why I’ve created the resource Confident Conversations for you. This is a mini-course which will help you resolve conflict Biblically, build healthier relationships, and create transformation.

To learn more and to access the mini-course as soon as it’s available, go to confidentconversations.co.

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Why leaders need to have hard conversations