I’m convinced that left to our own designs most individuals in the workplace are happy to wile away their days comfortable in the assumption that their performance ranges from good to excellent, and likely not in need of much if any guidance on improving. We’re wired this way.

As for managers and team leads and others charged with the task of pointing out opportunities to strengthen, well, most prefer to skip, delay, or at a minimum soft-pedal these conversations by shrouding them in praise.

Growth requires context, and we gain this context through clear, timely, business-focused, empathetic feedback. And feedback means that someone points out something we can do different and better. Or, something we can do more of because it works so well.

We all need input, both positive and the other kind to help us grow and go. This need goes double for anyone in a management or leadership role, where sadly, feedback is as rare as a slow news day in our nation’s capital recently.

Here’s Why We Need the Right Conversations for Growth:

We’re Blind to Our Strengths and Gaps

Blame the internal wiring on these natural blind spots. I worry more about being blind to my strengths than my weaknesses. When we fail to tune in to our strengths, we spend much of our time operating in a state of internal dissonance. Alternatively, when someone helps us tune-in to our strengths, and we learn to cultivate and apply them, it’s transformational for us.

We’re Creatures of Habit

We love routine. It’s comfortable. It grooves deep channels in our thinking processes, and we experience stress if we try and jump out of these channels. Yet, growth requires carving new channels via new, repeated behaviors. Mostly, we need external input from someone we trust to suppress the stress reaction and begin to engage in new behaviors.

We Can’t Do Our Jobs as Managers and Leaders Without These Conversations:

As managers and leaders, our potential for impact—both positive and adverse—is highly leveraged by our authority. Of everyone in the workforce, we need input the most, especially about those behaviors that detract from performance and damage morale.

Our nearly sacred responsibility as managers and leaders is to help people while helping our organizations. We can’t do this effectively without subscribing to a state of constant improvement. And, part of this is striving to overcome our natural fear or trepidation of challenging conversations. Avoiding these conversations is easy. The right thing to do is step-up and deliver with clarity, respect, and empathy. Anything less is malpractice.

Do Three Things Great to Improve Your Comfort with the Conversations that Promote Growth

Nothing significant in your career (or your life) happens without one or more challenging conversations.

Regardless of your role, strive to cultivate a strong growth mentality and do three things great.

1. Listen with a ferocity that makes people notice. Most of us don’t listen well. We need to be great at this to pick up on the clues and breadcrumbs people leave us about our performance.

2. Rush to engage in the most challenging of conversations. Punch your natural inclination to avoid these conversations smack in the face and engage. And do so with empathy and respect all of the time. Remember, we’re all rowing in the same boat trying to survive.

3. Ask people how you are doing. Ask them what you are great at and what they appreciate about you. And ask them what you do that makes them want to punch you smack in the face. And then do more of the former and less of the latter with ferocity.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

I love that growth is only a conversation away. But first, we have to choose to engage. The alternative is to wander through our days naively and erroneously believing we’re already our best selves. That’s a costly mistake.

Art's Signature