1. Interrogate Reality
2. Tackle the Tough Stuff
3. Invite Learning
4. Enrich Relationships

Here’s a BELIEF from which you can lead as a leader, manager, be it in corporate America or in the privacy of your home: “Conversations can either enable you and increase your capacity for reflection and judgment, or they can demean you and constrict your ability to make good and thoughtful judgments.”

I recently heard Bill Moyer and young Heather McGhee discuss their shared concern about the viability of our democracy and the effectiveness of our public discourse. They highlighted a lack of willingness in politics to discuss issues in a fact-based way and asserted “People no longer seem to care about facts or analysis. Our beliefs are more important to us than the facts.”

Wow! What an opportunity for courageous conversations. When our beliefs are more important to us than the facts, our beliefs BECOME the facts in our thinking. WE are right, and YOU are wrong. Not a good environment. To interrogate reality—step one of a courageous conversation—the environment must be perceived as reasonably safe.
So where’s the entry point for a courageous conversation between, let’s say, you and Joe, a manager who reports to you, who has an employee he considers to be a problem? (Substitute parent-child, husband-wife, friend). Joe thinks Jane is broken and needs to be fixed. Jane doesn’t have her own answers, but he does and it’s his job to give her answers. He questions Jane’s commitment, and she’s a drain on Joe. Sound familiar?

What does the first step in a courageous conversation –to interrogate Joe’s reality—look like?

It helps to be interested in the distinction “I am willing” contrasted with “I want/I don’t want.” Have you noticed you may not want to talk to an under-performing employee? That’s right. You don’t want to! But as a manager who longs to be a great manager, you are nevertheless willing, aren’t you?

At home, you may not want to say “no” to your child who wants an Iphone at age 8. Nevertheless you’re willing to say “no.” You get the point.

Being willing comes from a different place in you than “I want to/I don’t want to.” The latter is from your feelings, and if you throw your hands up in the air and say “I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am,” what you’re really saying is I AM my feelings. Which you’re not. You HAVE feelings, but you aren’t them. No matter how convenient it would be sometimes if it were true.

“I am willing” comes from beyond your feelings. It could be said it comes from your hero’s heart, from that place in us that is unchanging and unchangeable. It’s from the observer place in us who can witness our feelings and say “That’s not me. That’s not all I am.” This observer place is a place you will want to visit often if having courageous conversations interest you. There’s enormous power there. And you can get at it by choice.

Bill Moyer and Heather McGhee may be using the wrong term when they say Americans aren’t willing to discuss issues in a fact-based way. In our hero’s heart there’s no such thing as “I’m not willing.” Our hero’s heart is always the space of contribution. I submit that in the heat of emotion we definitely don’t WANT to have a fact-based conversation. We just want to get comfortable again. We see no other way to be than the way we’ve always been. The distinction “to be willing” only lives for us as a concept. When it lives as a guiding principle it is extraordinarily powerful to promote a courageous conversation. “I don’t want to/I want to is no match for “I am willing.” Guaranteed.

Let’s begin by getting in touch with our own “I’m willing.” As a manager, we can learn to get ourselves and Joe to “I’m willing.” That’s a fine beginning for a courageous conversation. It could be a game-changer. It could help us escape the confines of our established mind. Albert Einstein said “You can’t solve a problem at the level of thinking that created the problem in the first place.” The rewards of courageous conversations can be immense. We may arrive at a higher level of thinking that would have us “up” our game. Would that be worth leaving the comfort of our ordinary mind?

Learn more about the distinctions to be willing and to want/to not want in Chapters 1-4 of “The Un-Game: Four-Play to Business as Unusual.” Visit www.IngridMartine.com

Author's Bio: 

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, immigrated to the US at age eleven, from Germany. Her fascination with human behavior began when she read mythological stories and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. They fired her imagination to understand people. She wanted to solve the puzzle of people losing their enthusiasm for learning, and became an educator. She has a Master’s degree in French Literature and speaks three languages fluently.

Moving into the world of business—first as a consultant, then as an internationally certified executive/team coach with clients in North America, Europe, and Australia—she got interested in unconventional models of learning.

While working as a teacher with inner-city at-risk youth who seemed to hate to learn, she began developing innovative educational models. Certain that a disdain for learning is unnatural, she submits that learning environments must help people—adults in corporate America included—get out of their own way.

Her ability to create rich learning environments was facilitated by non-traditional learning experiences which required her to be “client-centered,” and by her graduate work in psychology and experiential education design. Her intention is to engage you in a learning process that supports exceptional effectiveness at work and transfers to your life beyond work.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play. For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind: Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit: http://www.ingridmartinelifecoaching.com, or connect with Ingrid at: www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine. .