As a leader or parent, are you more apt to avoid, rather than engage, in tough conversations with those you lead? Well, you’re not alone! In fact, you’re actually pretty normal.
Do you realize that the majority of leaders (and parents) have never been taught how to take on difficult conversations? And certainly not with much tact, grace, or courage!
So, what usually happens? Well, to be blunt, a train wreck happens!
There’s often a collision of wills, a battle to be right, and a lot of fear present. Every leader knows that having difficult, but necessary, conversations is a complicated task.
When you consider how much is going on at once, it can be a daunting task to sit down and have that “little talk”. Think about it:
- There’s fear – first and foremost
- There’s risk – of things going badly
- There’s discomfort – it feels like conflict
- There’s pride – especially with big personalities
- And a lot of emotions – it can feel pretty intense
Things can get complicated quickly. But what’s really behind all that tension? What’s the real goal anyways, and how much control do you have over it?
That’s what Director of Business and Leadership Coaching Aaron West and I sat down to discover on today’s episode!
Chris LoCurto 0:00
On today's episode, why leaders and parents are more apt to avoid than engage in tough conversations and what's at stake by not tackling those difficult situations that is up next.
Welcome to the Chris LoCurto show where we discuss leadership and life and discover that business is what you do, not who you are.
Welcome to the show, folks. I hope you're having a fabulous day wherever you are. Joining me in the studio today is the incredibly handsome and fabulous director of our business and leadership coaching here at the Poimen Group, our very own Aaron West. Aaron. Welcome.
Aaron West 0:51
Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me on the show today.
Chris LoCurto 0:53
So good to have you. So good to have you in studio,
It's good to be in the studio today. I this is this is unusual for me, not typical.
Now we do a lot of over the because your remote. So we do a lot of zoom calls to get to see you there. It's always good to have you here back in the studio. So you are going to be teaching on the Next-Level Leadership LIVE Event in just a few months about tough conversations. And that is what we're going to be talking about. But with that said, we're in the middle of a short but powerful mini series that is teasing out some of these core concepts that we're going to be tackling at this year's Next-Level Leadership LIVE Event, which again, is coming up soon. So we're just over a month away. But there's still time to get tickets for you and your team and to make plans to join us here in Nashville. So listen, if you're a business owner, or leader, this event was designed for you. It's designed for you, it's designed for your leaders. This is our premier once a year event that is open to the public. So you do not want to miss this. And this year, we had even more of what you love, which is both the leadership lessons and the life sessions as well. So it's easy to do just go to Chrislocurto.com/nextlevelleadership. I'll just one word to reserve your seats today.
So let's dive into this topic. Now. Listen, any leader, any parent out there knows that having difficult but necessary conversations is a very complicated task. There's a lot that's involved. There is probably one of the most prominent things fear. That's that's one of the things that we see people struggle with all the time. Fear of how's this gonna go? Fear of how's this going to be received? Fear what's this gonna make me look like afterwards? Fear all kinds of fear, right? There's risk. What if it does go badly? What of having this tough conversation doesn't work out the way you think that it should work out? There's discomfort, it feels like total conflict. You know, I am the person who teaches this stuff. And yet I hate conflict. I don't like conflict. And yet God's just made it where I can not only use the right tools, but teach people how to do so as well. There's usually lots of emotions, so things can get way out of control. Now, for some people, they're like, Nope, I can have a tough conversation and no emotions involved. I don't know if you have none. But for a lot of folks, the big issue is that there's a lot of emotions and things can get complicated really, really quick. By what exactly? Well, because a lot of leaders, a lot of parents have never been taught to have a tough conversation, or at least a effective, tough conversation. Let me say it that way that they're leading, they contend to blunder through it, they can tend to do more harm than good. If they are not in a position. And this is a big one, if they're not in a position to not get emotionally handcuffed to the conversation. If they're not in that position, then they will have a tendency to defend when things come back their way or stumble or struggle or get upset or feel out of control. So you know what I mean? This can just end up in a collision of wills and goals. It's kind of a train wreck. And so naturally, people tend to shy away and avoided whenever possible. So when we come back, what's really going on what all is involved when we sit down to have a tough conversation and what's at stake by avoiding them that's coming up right after this.
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Welcome back. And hey, Aaron, you're on the show and haven't said much yet.
You know, I'll say a few words here and there. Just speaking to this, I think I have had a big opening there. Give us a little bit of your background, what do people need to know about you?
Aaron West 5:39
Yeah, so I, much like a lot of our listeners, I'm a business owner and a business leader. I've been running my own business now for over 10 years, working with companies and consulting with companies in audio, video, lighting, but I'm also leading businesses, and coaching them through challenges, working with teams, working with people, because that's the big thing that a lot of leaders struggle with is not the day to day, hey, I got a business degree in this. It's the soft skills of working with people, how do I lead people? How do I motivate people? How do I help them be better, and going to one of you in our own mantras of, hey, we our goal as leaders is not to, you know, make ourselves successful, our goal is to set our teams up so that we make them successful. So it's not the other way around. That's one of the things that we talk about a lot here. You know, one of the things that you do is you look to make us successful. And we do that to our team, and we teach our clients out there the same kind of stuff. And so that's that's kind of my background with stuff and what I've been doing. I am a super high s personality, I hate conflict. And I hate tough conversations. But much like you're talking about earlier, before we went to break, it's something that I've had to learn how to do and work through and still learning how to do well. I'm not there yet, on a lot of stuff. But there's a lot of stuff that I've gone man, this is a lot better than it was 510 years ago, because if I'd had that conversation 10 years ago, wouldn't have gone wouldn't go very well might not have even gone at all, you know, avoid the conflict.
Chris LoCurto 7:12
So yeah, so a lot of people don't know this. But you and I have known each other for gosh, since 2008 2008 2008. When I hired you the first time, which was fabulous. And we always laugh and say that you got the job because I held Ariana, she was six months old at six months old at the time through the whole interview. Yep. And that was just fabulous. And she is Gosh, how old is she now? She's now 13. She almost 14. That is just crazy. Yeah. So you worked. We worked together for many years. A lot of folks that have been to different events have heard stories about Aaron West. Great stories, fantastic stories. And then you went out on your own rent your own business still have that business? Yeah. And now you're here for? Gosh, I don't know how long now helping and guiding businesses and leaders to the success that you've learned over all of these years as well. Absolutely. Now, when I first met you, obviously you were handling a lot of tough conversations, right?
Aaron West 8:17
Yeah, a whole bunch of them. If you see my head right now, so you can get absolutely not I avoided them like the plague. Why, you know, is a lot of conflict. And as a high s man, I was a people pleaser. I wanted people to like me. And if I had to have a tough conversation, I knew, man, if I have to have this conversation, they are not going to like me, we're all done. And I did not want that. I wanted to avoid that as much as I possibly could. And so I literally would tell myself, you know, it'll get better. When things will just get better. I don't have to deal with this. We'll get back to normalcy, just give it some time. And I learned real quick that that was not a path to success. Yeah, under any circumstances.
Chris LoCurto 8:59
The thing I always loved about you is that you always had a cool head. Like you always could, you know, you you if if there was things going crazier. And we dealt with some massive events now 10,000 People events and all kinds of stuff like that. But you always had a really cool head during situations. I always loved that. But it didn't point to it didn't show us how the things that you struggled with, right? So what are like when you think of some of the things that you wrestled with or really held you back from engaging in tough conversations, obviously, the people pleasing is going to hold anybody back, right? I don't I don't want people to be upset. But what are some of those deeper things that you wrestled with?
Unknown Speaker 9:40
You know, there was even going back to one of the first things you said Fear. Fear was such a big thing for me. I was afraid of and for those of you who have been through next level life, you understand I was afraid because I got my words from people, right. And I was afraid that if I had a tough conversation that I was going to lose worth through that conversation with him. And I didn't I feared that I feared having to tell someone they did something wrong. Yeah, I was, I'm a positive person, you know this about me, I love to smile, love to point out great things that people do. And I was afraid I was actually fearful of going out to tell somebody, they did something wrong. And that, that scared me. And even looking at even my own root system, and coming back to the stuff I grew up with, and the stuff I experienced, not only as a kid growing up in the family I grew up in but even in work experiences that I had, and leaders that I had, I was never really taught how to have tough conversations. Well, and it goes back to you know, there were tough conversations, were they done? Well, right. might not have been. And so even for me, I didn't know what to do with that. I didn't know how to really have a great quality tough conversation with someone, because I didn't know what it looked like. And I was afraid of what it might look like, in my own mind. I was putting stuff into my own mind, about what I imagined would be the end result. Yeah. And of course, as I high s Who's afraid of conflict, where do I go, I go to worst case scenario, and I start putting all those Oh, man, this is what's gonna happen. This is how they're gonna feel about me, this is what they're gonna think this is what's gonna happen after the fact. And it scared me a lot of times from that. There's also a lot of times where I did not ask the questions and getting perspective. Sometimes we have to go to a tough conversation, we immediately gather information, and we go, I gotta do something with that. And we don't actually go ask the questions. And for me, that was a hard thing for me was that I, I literally found myself getting just little bytes of information and responding, right? Oh, well, I've got to now go deal with this crap, this is not going to be great. This is not going to be fun. And had I actually gained perspective, ask questions, I would have realized, oh, there really isn't that bad of a situation. But I was literally walking myself through all these negative things that were gonna happen. And putting myself through all this stress and pressure without actually going, Hey, what is actually the issue at hand? And so those are, those are a couple things for me that that held me back from really having great, tough conversations when I need to have them.
Chris LoCurto 12:18
Yeah. It's so funny, because you just laid out what almost every single person who struggles with dealing with tough conversations, experiences, right? One of the biggest things is, you know, how are people going to think about me? What is this gonna say about me? When I have this tough conversation? Are people gonna think I'm a jerk? I'm, you know, I'm mean, I'm whatever. Are they going to think less of me? And as you laid out, my worth coming from how people see me? Yep. Well, always keep me in a place of fear. Right? I will always try and control what people are thinking even though I can't control what people are thinking I can only suggest what they're thinking. But I think is super important thing to understand about that aspect holding us back is it never allows us to think about the positivity coming out of a tough conversation I needed.
Unknown Speaker 13:15
Yeah, I saw all the negative of a tough conversation, I saw all the bad things that are going to come out of it. And never thought, wait a second, if I have this tough conversation, how is this going to benefit the other person? How's this going to benefit me? How is this going to make everything that we're actually going for better? I was stuck in all the negative stuff. And that's where I lived so much of my life as I looked at these kinds of situations.
Chris LoCurto 13:37
Yeah. So it's interesting, because, you know, I've been leading leaders and business owners for decades. And I, I can tell you, there's been a lot of times when I've helped somebody sit down and have a tough conversation with somebody or let somebody go. And in the process of me gaining perspective, I asked the question, how long has this been going on? And I, I can't tell you how many times somebody said seven years. Wow. And I'm like, seven years? And they're like, I know, I know. And I'm ready. It's like, are you ready? Are you sure? Yeah. So it's it. It's funny to think about it. But my gosh, when you realize the impact of not doing it. So what's involved what really goes on when leaders sit down to have a big talk? While there are several things and I want you to kind of list out some of the big pieces that are involved when this happens?
Unknown Speaker 14:38
Yeah, I mean, some of the big things and we've talked about some root system, looking back and what you've experienced what you have been shown, I mean, one of the things that we talk about a lot is, you know, when we go into a leadership role, I was talking to a new client today who has stepped into a leadership role for the first time and they're kind of freaking out a little bit because they go I've never let people before and their perception of a leader has hasn't always been a positive experience. And so they've got almost a tainted experience about what a leader is supposed to look like. And they don't want to be that. And so that whole root system piece of this is what I've experienced is what I know. speaks into how I have tough conversations the way your parents had tough conversations with you. The way leaders have had tough yelling and screaming, yelling, avoiding. Yeah, exactly. Back love hitting on how exactly, they all go down. Right. Thank you for not holding back love for me, Chris. Absolutely. The other thing is his perspective, you know, missing that that additional perspective that symptoms that can sometimes help you realize, gosh, this really isn't that tough of a conversation?
Chris LoCurto 15:44
Well, in a big thing that people screw up all the time is that so depending upon the personality style, you have to build yourself up, right, you and I are both high SS. Yeah, there have been times in early on when we're having tough conversations. And you know that you felt like you had to build yourself up. I remember my early days of leadership, when I didn't have all these tools. And now I have to build myself up to have this tough conversation with somebody who's screwing something up and somebody is ripping my head off. And you know, all this stuff was going on. And then I get in there. And it's like, hey, why don't you do this thing? And they're like, I didn't. Like,
Unknown Speaker 16:21
oh, crap, that's when you feel really good about yourself. Totally.
Chris LoCurto 16:24
Yeah. It's like, I was worried about losing worth with a tough conversation. Now I'm losing worth because I just accused somebody have something and I didn't get Yeah, all the perspective, right. And so this point that you're making is so profound. It's amazing how just the right information can actually settle you into having a great, tough, necessary conversation, right? Because you still may be a tough conversation. But at least you don't, you're not going in, you know, guns loaded guns blaring, only to find out that the information you have is wrong. So that's such a big piece of that.
Aaron West 16:59
Yeah, and you actually hit on another piece. And that's, that's personality and personality styles and understanding that and as high SS we we want to avoid as much as possible. However, high D personality styles, especially depending on how mature they are in the personality style, they may jump right into and go man, here we go. I'm gonna deal with this. What's this? Yeah. And then again, not getting perspective not looking at things. And then they attack a, especially if they come in attacking, and they've got an S on the other side of it. You talk about breaking loyalty with a team member, right there. And those are those kind of things that you've got to stop and look at and go, Who am I having the conversation with? What is their personality style? What is my personality? So how do I have this and lean into their personality style? As I'm communicating this tough conversation with them? What is it they need? You know, and talking about how they receive info, how you deliver info, it's so important, even the words you use. One of the things I'm also Heisey, one of the things that gets me in trouble sometimes is, is when I receive info, there may be a word or two that I lock onto. And I will stick on that and completely ignore everything else you just said. And then when you take a breath, I come back and go, Yeah, you said this, and this is a new way. Well, hold on,
Chris LoCurto 18:13
Hold on. I know. I said what?
Aaron West 18:16
Yeah, you said this, and that's what you meant. I was like, no, no, no, no, no. Well, you said that word. Well, yes, I did. But think about the context. I use that in and literally, we will get hung up on those pieces like that, of how we receiving the info. Yeah.
Chris LoCurto 18:30
And even watching your team do that. And it's good to understand that if the person not if the person who is receiving the tough conversation is already probably got some walls up is already probably guarded. And they're losing worth because this is a tough conversation, you have to understand, like you're saying how they're going to receive the info and one of the important things is put yourself in their shoes. Yep. If you understand the personality style, you can also understand they're probably struggling with this like crazy. And if they are icy the last thing they want is the Oh, I did something wrong. Yep. And so they are looking to find something that they can flip it back on and go, nope, this is wrong. This information is incorrect. Right. Why would they do that? Because just like everybody else on the planet, their high seas trying to avoid that that issue. Right, that tough conversation?
Unknown Speaker 19:23
Well, no, the high C if I feel like I can discredit what you're saying, right? One moment. I just credit every everything you say. Absolutely. And so that's the thing to watch out for that. You know, the other thing is, is setting boundaries. You know, tough conversations actually can help you set great boundaries. We talk a lot about setting not just boundaries, but healthy boundaries. And this is one of the things that if if we don't have the tough conversations, we could actually be avoiding setting really good boundaries. I think back on my life and times where I did not set good boundaries, and I did not have tough conversations and I find myself in the middle stuff I don't need to be involved in I don't want to be involved in. But I've been dragged into it because I've wanted the tough conversation. Because I don't, I didn't want to hurt somebody's feelings, but I also didn't set good boundaries on it. And then the last one is, is really allowing yourself to say no, and man, this is such a hard one for for my personality style as a hi hi SSE. I just, I'm just sick. That's all. That's what I say every time Hi, hi, si, si, si, si, I'm sick. But it's hard as this person on the staff to say no, a lot of times, you know, and there are people that it's easier to say no to that. What why is that? What does that mean? Because I don't want to disappoint Yes, I don't want to make somebody feel like, Oh, hey, Aaron will do this. And then they asked me and I go, I don't really want to hurt their feelings, I want to disappoint them, you know, yeah, I'll do that I'll take care of it. I don't want you to have to worry about in my s kicks in, I don't want you have to worry about that. I'll solve that for you. I'll take care of all that for you. And so those are some of the things that that I I'll walk through, and even process through before I even have the conversation so that I can make sure that I'm setting myself up for success. And I'm making sure I can set up the team member, whoever it is that I'm leading a child through this. So that can set them up for success, too. I want to think about all of those things. Before I even jump into the conversation.
Chris LoCurto 21:20
I think it is a massive mistake. And I am so guilty of having done this. In my earlier years, and I've probably done it since but this is this was definitely a a standard for me that when I was going into a tough conversation in my early career, I was focused more on my responses. Hmm, I would pay I would well, Aaron's gonna respond this way. Well, he's gonna say this, well, he's gonna do this. And it was in that defensive mode, right? Yeah, my emotions, were handcuffed to that potential conversation. And therefore I wasn't being a great leader, and having a tough conversation and caring about Aaron and what he needs to hear and what he's going to struggle with and what I still need to do to protect the company or whatever the reason is for the tough conversation. And so instead of doing the things that you just said, before you go in prepare, think through all these things, what's the personality style? Do I understand any of their root system? Do I have the right perspective? How do they receive, you know, all these different pieces you just shared? If I spent time on that, then I wouldn't go into the tough conversation in a defensive posture. Yep. Because I'm already having to build myself up to have this conversation. Now that we do this. Well, I mean, we don't, we rarely have to have tough conversations, we tough conversations for us more happen, you know, in events or something like that. But team wise, we rarely have to have tough conversations, it takes five minutes to think through, what's the information? What's this? What's this? What's this, okay, and instead of sitting down, starting with a tough conversation, it usually starts off with a lot of perspective gathering from the other person. And then if need be, we go into that tough conversation. So I think it's important to understand that you don't want to control the outcome, right? You don't want to control what happens. That's what we convince ourselves, we need to be in control, we need to control the outcome. No, you need to control you. Yep. If you can control you control your emotions, then what happens is, is that you can ask great questions, give great information, stay on subject, which is very difficult for people to do because when you're pressing somebody, they like to deflect and go a different direction, and then get to the best result. So big piece. You know, I talked a little bit ago about the multiple people who, you know, didn't do something for years and years and years, those people stayed on their staff that continued to pay them, they continue to be poisoned. What's at stake, what is at stake when a person or parent, a leader or a business owner, or a parent doesn't sit down to have tough conversation? Because they're ruled by fear?
Unknown Speaker 24:05
Man, I tell you, the the thing is, is when we don't have that conversation, the end result is never good. Yeah. I mean, I'll just be real with you. And I heard somebody say, at one time, you know, we can sweep things under the rug. But eventually we have a mountain in front of us that we can't climb anymore. And we think, Oh, well just keep under the rug, the rug, we get smaller, no, the rug gets bigger, right? It really does. And so when we're when we're avoiding these conversations, when we're having these fears, these conversations, one, we're not setting ourselves up for future success. We're allowing ourselves to be controlled by our own fear. We're allowing ourselves to be held back in our own growth, our own personal growth, our own abilities, because we are so afraid of what the outcome might be. The second thing is, is we're holding the other person oh my gosh, because now you've got somebody who for whatever reason, they go in, and depending on personality, so they could go, man, I just got away with something and leader in saying a darn thing about it to me. Sweet.
Chris LoCurto 25:03
I literally sat and this is somebody you know, years ago, I literally have sat in a tough conversation. And the team member got up and walked out the door. And I looked at the leader and they're like, man that went really well. And I'm like, they have no clue that was a tough conversation. They actually think that you just pat them on the back. And they're like, Well, I don't want it to be bad. And it's like, they don't know. It's just so funny. So
Unknown Speaker 25:27
yeah, and you know, when I'm not setting them up, if if they walk out going, Man, that was a great conversation and go,
Chris LoCurto 25:33
hold up, please, be in pain a little bit. Right?
Unknown Speaker 25:36
I may have done something wrong in this conversation. Maybe I wasn't clear in my communication. But honestly, we're holding our team back. We're holding them back from being able to grow. We're holding our kids back. Oh, my gosh, what about the kids? I'm thinking about my girls. I've got a 13 and a 11 year old? Yes. Wow. That's to make sure that, yeah, 11 year old. And, and I'm looking at them as they're turning into young women, and even some of the stuff we've already had conversations on. And I love that I can even have tough conversations with them right now. And they understand why we're having the tough conversations. They understand. Wait, this is not dad being a jerk dad, you know, cuz he's taken all my phone away. There's a reason and a purpose behind it. And here's the thing, we've not talked about that I think it's so important with that as a leader or as a parent, when you have trust with that person that you're having a tough conversation with. It changes the way they receive it. Yep. I think back to you know, you kind of joke about some of the times where you've had to have to Africa conversations, I think back to my time of receiving tough conversations from you on things, and watching you handle them and how you walk through them. And recognizing myself going, Wait a second, who is talking to me about this? What is there? Are they are they trying to tear me down? Not trying to hurt me? Are they trying to hurt me? No, what I'm getting is I'm getting someone who cares enough about me to want to help me?
Chris LoCurto 27:02
Did we ever have a tough conversation?
Aaron West 27:03
Oh, my gosh, we've had we've had a few. But they were probably not as big as some that you've had. But for me, look I for you. Conversation. That's yeah, you were like, Oh, that was just a normal conversation. That was nothing. But for me, they've actually set me up to now go Okay, wait a second. The fact of who Chris is, you know, I think about there are people in my life there. There are certain people in my life who I have great trust and respect for because they're looking out for me right on that don't come into attack, right? They're not coming attack. Like I sit there. And I think about I think I shared this with you before the experience that I had, being under you and Matt Woodburn as my leaders at days and the way you guys handled challenges the way you guys handle conflict with the team, the way you guys lead us is such an important thing, because I got an opportunity to see what real leadership looks like that I may not have got otherwise, I may not have experienced otherwise. And that helped change who I was, well, now I can turn around and not only lead mighty, not only lead other clients who are coaching and leading their teams, but even my own kids. And now we're talking about legacy changes. We're talking about long term things that I've affected one person, how many people that one person affected?
Chris LoCurto 28:22
Yeah, you know, I think some something that is so important to recognize is that you chose to implement, right, the things that you do, I mean, you are again, coaching business owners and leaders daily, because you chose to actually implement the things that you were trained on and taught and grew. And those things. That's I think that is one of the big keys here is that you know, a lot of folks sitting out there are high S's and C is going oh, I just can't do that. That's too much conflict. And yet, here we are both high S's, high C, or decent amount of what is your C, 16?
Aaron West 29:06
Depending on which day that we've had the other day
Chris LoCurto 29:10
to people who've gone from oh my gosh, I can't stand conflict to hey, I still can't stand conflict. I just know how to do it. Right. And that implementation is the thing and that just cashed it. I can't tell you how much that warms my heart to go back to the errand of 2008 Oh my goodness, you know, and the Chris Lakota 2008, right, and see where we were back then. But to see where you were what you were coming out of the leadership that you were experiencing at the time, the all that kind of stuff and to see you grow over the years and implement, to doing it yourself to experiencing it yourself to leading your own teams yourself, all of that stuff and putting yourself in this place. The funny thing is people are listening to this going, Man, I don't know if I can even do the tough Converse. sation in what we're talking about is having stepped in with the information to do the first one and start the practice from there. Has you at this place? I mean, it has me at where I am, right. Yeah. So I think that's so vitally important that it's not just we're not just talking about going in and having one tongue tough conversation with a team member, one tough conversation with a child with a with a, with a spouse, we're talking about a process change. And you've got, I mean, you're gonna give all the details and all the tools and all this stuff to handle this next level leadership event. But it is not just one, it's not a one time event, it is the way that you lead things going forward to the point that it's so funny, as you're talking about us having tough conversations. I'm like, Oh, my God, literally, the only the only thing I can ever think about is the one email exchange that we had when you very first came on board, which was so funny. And it wasn't even for that one. But it's like, I don't even look back and go. We had tough conversations. I don't even think about that, right? I'm sure. Surely there was probably something in there. But it wasn't a Oh, you're a failure you're doing it's a, hey, let's walk through this, let's change this, let's fix this, that kind of stuff. To that you're you do that you lead that you parent that way to where your children look at you and go, I know that I know His character. I know what he's doing. And I think that's such a big thing is is that the person who's receiving the tough conversation can fail miserably when they don't think about who what's the character of the person, not the character making up the actual character.
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