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Build a Stronger Team with Hard Conversations

Past IAEE Women’s Leadership Forum presenter Alyson Van Hooser offers tips on how teams can use tough conversations to connect, engage and thrive.

By Alyson Van Hooser

Originally published on Van Hooser Associates, Inc.

Building a Stronger Team… What Works & What Might Not

Consider this… When I worked on teams in the retail, food service, and financial industries, there were so many well-intending leaders who tried many different options to build a stronger team. Options like personality tests, games, after-hours events, and more.

While the intention was great, the ROI of time and money was often incredibly low. Especially when it came to personality tests, which are great at establishing differences, but rarely forge meaningful connections among a team of people.

Strong Relationships Build a Stronger Team

Consider the people you are closest with. Have you all been through ups and downs together?

… your answer likely includes some sort of “yes”, right?

For me, some of my strongest relationships are those where we have walked through the fire together, the difficult seasons, had the tough conversations, and ultimately we came out stronger because of it.

One of the best actions effective organizational leaders can take is equipping their team to handle day-to-day conversations — especially the hard ones — in a way that they leave the interaction and everyone’s ENGAGEMENT INCREASES going forward. They don’t get frustrated and check out. Instead, they are motivated to check in and level up!

Make no mistake about it, strong teams are built in the day-to-day interactions among everyone. Conflict (a mental struggle of ideas or wills) is inevitable in an organization. Confrontation (a person-to-person interaction addressing the conflict) is a choice. Most people avoid confrontation.

The challenge is that far too many teams aren’t capitalizing on the incredible opportunity to build stronger relationships by handling confrontation the right way! Strong teams don’t let problems linger. Strong teams address issues and move forward better together.

5 Ways to Build a Stronger Team with a Hard Conversation

Here are some quick tips for you to consider next time a hard conversation must happen so everyone can experience a positive result.

  1. Address the specific action that is the problem. Don’t talk in general terms. Don’t put the conversation off too long.
  2. Explain how the problem will hinder the employee from achieving their own goals. Be sure you correctly understand their current goals and expectations. If you’re wrong here, that could be a disaster.
  3. Express your desire to help them achieve their goals. Offer your assistance in finding and executing a solution. Be ready to give up your time to keep your word here.
  4. Make your future expectation clear. Don’t assume they know what you mean.
  5. Ask them to restate the conversation so you can make sure you communicated correctly. Assume responsibility for any communication breakdowns here.

My intent is to get you to think… to capitalize on the everyday interactions you’re having with your team so you can truly become stronger together. (For more help on communicating better, make sure you’re managing these 3 key issues.)

This is a solid starting point. I’m wishing you huge success!

About The Author

Alyson Van Hooser is a leadership keynote speaker as well as trainer on Millennials, Gen Z and Women in Business. With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together!

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