Marcia Reynolds on What It Takes to Turn Tough Workplace Conversations into Transformational Ones

We had a great start to our signature Virtual Happy Hours for 2016 with leadership coach and communication expert Dr. Marcia Reynolds, author of The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs. Her passion for how the human brain works inspired her to conduct research on how people react to those difficult conversations at work that worry everyone. She talks about how to make way for “maximum gain with minimum pain” in those tough conversations so they end up being transformational.Here are excerpts from the happy hour (which you can view in full here).Pictured Dr. Marcia Reynolds On how she became who she is:Dr. Reynolds always knew she would own a business, as she inherited the entrepreneurial gene. Then later on working in the training departments of global companies gave her vast insights into understanding human behavior. Knowing how much one-on-one conversations can bring out deeper connections that help both parties grow, Marcia helped form the International Coach Federation, and soon enough started her own coaching company, Covisioning LLC. “Find what you are most excited about, and go do that,” she suggests, and that’s exactly what she did.On why she wrote The Discomfort Zone: Marcia’s experience with coaches told her that coaches struggled to effectively challenge people by failing to ask them the most difficult questions. This made her explore the question, why do we do things that will hurt us instead of having the courage to speak the truth? Would people do tough conversations differently if they knew those conversations could make a difference for the better? Most people think having difficult conversations will make others hate them! Marcia works with people to change their thinking and expectations of these tough conversations to see their potential. (We might think of her work as a good example of Power Tool #4: Embrace Controversy.) In this case, you’re going into conversations aiming to change controversy into meaningful dialogue. In tough conversations, ask questions in such a way to make the other person think of the situation in a new light.On what to do when those difficult conversations come to you:The normal reaction for most people is to shut down and get defensive. But if you try to understand the end result you’re trying to achieve, you can catch those emotional triggers and respond with a clearer mind. [bctt tweet=“As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.” “] Most ambitious women often leave jobs because they don’t feel challenged, and yet it’s a known fact that women don’t usually ask for what they need. Knowing how to have difficult conversations and openly voicing concerns can help women stay at their jobs and grow on to becoming effective leaders. And only if you stay will you find out what you need to learn to improve and develop true leadership. (Need more help? Bring in our Leadership Ambassadors to work with you and your team on exactly these things.)On how to manage your reactions in tough conversations:The more direct the conversation, the more emotional the responses. People may feel embarrassed, angry, or sad in their current work situation, so you’ve got to create opportunities for people to talk with you about what’s really on their mind if there’s a problem. The important thing on either end of these conversations is to stay calm. You can’t be afraid to ask people to look at themselves. You have to go further than to just tell them what you want; help them understand what they need to do to change things for the better and commit to new actions. Sometimes to bring down a person’s wall, you need to have the “willingness conversation”, and ask what would it take for the person to be willing to be receptive. Remember, the toughest conversations are often with the people who are closest to us.discomfort zone and difficult conversationsTo recap, what are Marcia’s top 3 tips for making the most out of difficult conversations?

  • Choose your emotions before you have the conversation. What do you feel? What do you want to feel? Outsmart your brain into feeling that.
  • Remember you are in a two-way conversation! Focus on your mutual goal.
  • Remember that people are capable of growing and doing things differently! Believe in their potential.

What powers up Dr. Marcia Reynolds?Her first book, Wander Woman! Marcia believes in wandering with purpose and always asking ourselves what more can we accomplish. [bctt tweet=“We must simply step into our higher potential.”]Join us next month for our virtual happy hour with Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever as she talks about her upcoming book: How Exceptional Black Women Lead.Resources:The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into BreakthroughsOutsmartyourbrain.com