How to Handle the Emotionally Charged Conversation

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Marcia Reynolds, president of Covisioning LLC.

When I teach coaching skills to leaders, someone always asks what to do if a person cries. They usually want to do something that would make the person feel worse for crying. Here are tips for effectively handling emotions that could come up during difficult conversations.

Note: Take the Rate Your Zone of Discomfort quiz to judge your ability to deal with uncomfortable situations.

What if the person cries?  

Allow people to take a moment as you calmly wait for them to signal they are ready to move on.

Crying is a natural physiological response when someone feels hurt, sad, or had expectations that weren’t met. Their reaction could result from stress or a buildup of disappointments. Generally, if you tell the person to take her time and calmly sit in silence, she will let you know when she is ready to move on (I say “she” but men cry too). If you have a tissue available, offer it. If the crying is uncontrollable, ask if they would like to reschedule the meeting but only do this as a last resort. It is always better to give the crying person a moment to recoup than to make her feel wrong for crying.

How do you react when someone gets angry?

If you stay calm and listen, their anger usually subsides.

When you sense someone’s anger, you might instantly defend yourself, getting angry in return, or you shut down. If you feel you are at risk of being harmed, you should find a way to remove yourself as soon as possible. If not, give the person a chance to vent to release the steam. Then when he starts to calm down, ask what has made him so angry and sort out what is true from speculation. Then maybe you can find some ways of dealing with the situation so he regains even a small sense of control.

What if a person or a group of people are confused or afraid?

Dig deep to find what they are afraid of losing.

Do not try to diffuse or soften their emotions; better to tell them you would like to understand what is causing the fear so you can help them move forward. What do they feel they have lost or afraid they will lose? Listen to their stories so you can discover what is holding them back. Is the loss real or speculation? What do they need so they can take one step forward? Listen first, then seek to find what will restore their confidence and feeling of significance.

Avoid judging people for their reactions. Respectfully hold them in high regard during a difficult conversation. Recall what you believe they are capable of achieving. From this perspective, you have a chance at holding an amazing conversation that could surprise both of you.

To hear more about effective ways to handle difficult conversations, join us for our Soundview Live webinar with Marcia Reynolds on May 28th: Turning Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs.

Staying On Top of Issues That Can Make or Break a Company

We have just released our latest batch of executive book summaries, and they cover the gamut of business subjects and issues. But they do have one thing in common: they provide critical information to help you stay up on the latest issues and innovations in order to continue to succeed.

powerofthanks

The Power of Thanks by Derek Irvine and Eric Mosley

Globoforce executives Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine explain how a Culture of Recognition can boost employee engagement and loyalty, stronger teamwork, a more innovative culture, increased customer satisfaction, as well as greater profitability and organizational health. Ultimately, they show how to build a better workplace for employees.

leadershipblindspots

Leadership Blindspots by Robert Bruce Shaw

Robert Bruce Shaw helps leaders to identify weaknesses, threats and other vulnerabilities that can impair effectiveness, results and even their careers. Shaw reveals how blindspots operate and why they persist, but also provides techniques for recognizing them and taking action before they create lasting damage.

dataism

Data-ism by Steve Lohr

New York Times reporter Steve Lohr explains how big-data technology has its benefits and its drawbacks, which raises questions about the wider implications for everyone. Lohr lends insight into what’s ahead, suggesting that individuals and organizations will need to exploit, protect and manage data to stay competitive.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the individual titles to purchase and download them right now to begin learning these critical business skills.

 

Tips From the Top

In September of 2004 Michael Feuer began writing a column for Smart Business magazine called Tips From the Top. Fred Koury, CEO of Smart Business, had invited Feuer to write the column after reading Feuer’s employee newsletter which he sent out to the staff at OfficeMax during his time as CEO of the company.

Feuer’s column includes his observations and lessons learned as the Founder and CEO of OfficeMax and covers a wide range of subjects over 10 years and more than 125 columns written. Recently, Feuer and Smart Business editor Dustin Klein collected these columns together as an e-book by the same name. The book is organized by subject and includes gems of wisdom on:

  • Managing People
  • Communication
  • Overcoming Challenges
  • Building Value
  • Innovation
  • Competition
  • Leadership
  • Customer Service
  • Evaluating Opportunities
  • Negotiating

We have invited Michael Feuer to join us on May 21st at our Soundview Live webinar entitled, of course, Tips From the Top. Join us to hear what Feuer has learned over the years as an entrepreneur, CEO, and through his more recent experiences with Max-Ventures and Max-Wellness.

The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World

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OPTING TO CUT THE COMPANY DOWN TO SAVE IT

John Bell begins his book Do Less Better with the scenario of a troubled company — a regional player in 10 different categories, suffering through four consecutive years of losses, carrying higher than average payroll and inventory costs (the latter exacerbated by more than 1,000 SKUs), and starting to lose the support of impatient shareholders tired of pouring money into a losing cause.

What’s the next steps for a new CEO hired to turn around this sinking ship? If you’re like most new CEOs, Bell writes, you will do exactly what your predecessors tried to do: generate more revenues and cut costs. The difference is that you will do these things better. “You are kidding yourself,” Bell writes. “Strategically, doing more of the same… better is a pathway to incremental improvement, at best. Incremental improvement is never enough to fix strategically weak companies like the one I have described.”

The Greater Sacrifice

Instead of trying to do the same better, Bell believes a much more potent strategy is to make the tough decisions and cut the company down to a more efficient and focused size. Many companies are straining under the weight of their complexity and dispersion of resources, he writes.

He should know. The scenario above was real, and it was Bell who was tasked with saving the company.

Avoiding the incremental, top line-driven strategies described above, Bell and his team embarked instead on a no-holds-barred campaign to reduce activities and costs significantly. They did this by first eliminating the six poorest-performing product lines (out of 10). Even that, however, was not enough. A “greater sacrifice” was needed. “We didn’t want to do it,” Bell writes, “but we would have to divest two of the remaining sacred cows, two product lines with significant sales revenue and growth potential.”

The result was a company that went from 10 to two categories, from 1,000 to 35 SKUs, from more than 500 to 200 employees, and from $75 to $50 million in sales. However, the newly trimmed company was now focused almost entirely on its Nabob Coffee brand. Within three years, the company reached $100 million in sales (95 percent in coffee, 5 percent in tea) and would eventually boast 13 straight years of earnings growth before being sold to Kraft.

Cutting 300 employees and, probably more frightening for most CEOs, reducing the top line by $25 million was no small sacrifice. But as with gardens, courageous pruning, Bell argues, is what leads to growth. Many companies are hurting or, at best, stagnating because their leaders are afraid to, in the words of Bell, “kill their darlings.”

Bell offers one of his former clients, the Campbell Soup Company, as an example of a company that suffers from the refusal to cut loose a traditional business activity. Most consumers today are in the market for ready-made soup. There is not much call for condensed soup, although it has always been a staple of the company. Bell believed Campbell could break out of its stagnation, as other soup companies continue to grow around it, by stopping condensed soup and starting a brand new activity: soup bistros. There is a great market for gourmet soup cafés, inspired somewhat by the Starbucks chain of gourmet coffee shops, and Campbell would be the natural choice to start such a chain. The response from the Campbell Soup executive who listened to Bell’s idea was swift: “We aren’t in the restaurant business. Our mandate is to figure out how to bolster sales of condensed soup.”

For Bell, the first step to a new strategy is a new mindset from leaders, a mindset based on the courage to go small. It’s counterintuitive and may hurt in the short term, but for leaders considering such a move, reading Do Less Better is a great place to start.

Discover and Develop Greatness

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Think you can spot the leaders in your company? Don’t assume that you can identify them by their positions. What about those employees who consistently step up: the field agent who solves a previously intractable problem; the service rep who thinks outside the box and creates unshakeable customer loyalty.

These are more than “good employees.” These are “hidden leaders,” and they are critical to an organization’s long-term success. Managers today need to make the most of all their resources, and The Hidden Leader , by Scott Edinger and Laurie Sain, shows them how to recognize and cultivate these talented but under-utilized employees, who demonstrate integrity, lead through authentic relationships, focus on results, work from clear customer purpose and fulfill the value promise of the company.

Supported by real-world examples of hidden leaders in action, The Hidden Leader helps managers discover these secret saviors and enable them to deliver even greater value to customers.

In This Summary You Will Learn:

  • To recognize and nurture hidden leaders in your organization.
  • The four facets of hidden leadership.
  • Why integrity is non-negotiable in hidden leadership.
  • The difference between customer service and customer purpose.
  • How to engage hidden leaders at the individual and organizational levels.