Leadership Conversations over Coffee- Honest Truth Conversation

Leadership happens in small conversations. Conversations that could take place over the amount of time it takes to drink a cup of coffee.


What does the leader bring to the conversation?   A willingness to face the truth.

Background: Margo, who you met in a previous post, realized that the situation with Harry should probably end in termination. However, she is not his supervisor; she cannot take that kind of action. But it got her wondering about the people on her team.  Was there anyone on her team that was creating unnecessary problems for others in the company?  She remembered Jim Collins distinction between ruthless company cultures and rigorous company cultures. She thought it came from the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Other’s Don’t.  The distinction Collins made was that allowing a situation that isn’t working to languish for years is really the ruthless alternative.  

 Planning: Margo figured she couldn’t change the culture of the whole company but she could address issues in her own team.  She didn’t have to look too hard because she knew her team had its own "Harry."  Long story, short, in the time it took for her to ponder over a cup of coffee, she resolved to deal with her own "Harry."  She felt more comfortable working with her supervisor and human resources. Together they resolved to give this “Harry” an opportunity to correct his behavior.  She set up a rigorous schedule of check-ins with him and eventually asked him to leave the company.  See below for the planned out language she used in the first conversation.  It is what I call an Honest Truth Conversation.

In order for our team to function well and achieve our goals we need ________.  (Insert behavior you are seeking)

Currently, I am not seeing or hearing the results of that behavior. 

As your manager, I have two choices, I can ask you to leave the team or I can work with you for a few weeks to help you fine tune this behavior.

I need to know that you are willing to fine tune the ability to_______?

There will probably be resistance.  If the person you are communicating with is not used to an honest conversation they are not going to like it.  If the person is not hearing you, you can explain:

I can see you are upset. For now, think about what I am asking. I am asking if you are willing to fine tune your ability to ______?  That would mean learning from experience and trying different approaches to your interactions with the team.