Leadership often involves tough conversations. Here’s what I have observed from my own journey…

1. Character develops when you are stretched. Learning how to handle tough conversations will definitely do that. No one enjoys this part of leadership development. How we respond, shows what we are made of.

2. The pressure of a tough conversation can be good for us. Not so much pressure that we are completely destroyed but just enough that we are broken, ready to be remade and reshaped the way God intended.

3. Tough conversations give greater opportunity for growth. We might not like what we hear but if we respond correctly we will be the better for it. The choice is ours whether we become bitter or better from the experience. Whether we grow as leader or grind to halt as a leader.

4. Take the hit. At age 19 a lot of the conversations about my leadership were tough. I don’t think I really listened. Possibly I felt invincible. However, I do remember being sat in the kitchen in my leaders house and them asking a simple question ‘Is it true?’ I took the hit and it saved me.

5. Always be honest. Cover up, blagging it, telling a lie, hoping that an almost truth is enough, denial – none of them really work. Honesty is the best policy. Get whatever is being talked about into the open, dealt with and begin to move on.

Good leaders will have the conversation, desire to see the issue resolved and not return to it again, unless you take them through your own repeat behaviour.

Now, I am on the other side of the equation and find myself as a leader having tough conversations with future leaders and I endeavour to make sure I keep the following in mind…

Don’t be too harsh or judgemental
Remember you were a young leader once
Everyone misses the mark at times
Look for where the change can be made and encourage them towards it
Make sure they know you still believe in them

It’s about grace and truth. Too much truth and we hurt people. Too much grace and we don’t learn about the consequences of our actions. It’s about the truth with a way through.

If you are leader, what would you add? What’s your experience of tough conversations? How do you handle them now?

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