#SHRM19 Speaker Spotlight: Tracy Butz

Candid conversations are part of the territory for HR professionals and managers. Stepping up and having a difficult conversation is no fun, easy task: it can be uncomfortable and stressful. But if we choose to not say anything, the issue is unlikely to get better and potentially can get even worse.

Join us for Tracy Butz's Mega Session "Candid Conversations That Drive Results" on June 24 from 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m. to focus on how to effectively engage in open, meaningful dialogue, which will help us more fully understand one another and achieve enhanced, more productive and positive relationships. Learn to share tough messages in a way that maximizes candor and minimizes defensiveness, using six powerfully effective strategies.

Candid conversations are an integral part of an effective performance management strategy and practice.

Is there a "right time" and "right place" OR equally important, is there a "WRONG time" and "Wrong place" for critical conversations? Why does "when and where" matter?

First and foremost, the person who wants to engage in candid dialogue with someone needs to clearly identify his/her purpose for having the conversation before engaging in it. Why? Because the other person’s perception of your intent for sharing feedback will influence his/her behavior during the conversation. To ensure you are engaging in this conversation for the right reasons, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Why am I going to discuss this issue?
  2. What do I hope to accomplish?
  3. What would the ideal outcome be?

Additionally, taking into account the timing and location of the conversation is also important.

Address the matter as soon as possible; yet, ensure that you have done your due diligence and can say these words: “I’ve noticed that…”

Select a location for the conversation that is private and preferably neutral—like a conference room, lunch room during non-lunchtime hours, outside walking trail, offsite location, etc.

Discuss the issue face-to-face and one-on-one whenever possible. If you can’t talk in-person, via telephone is another option. Never address a tough situation via email or text. Never.

With the growth of remote and telecommuting workforce, it's not always possible to have face-to-face, in-person conversations... how do you recommend we navigate this challenge?

First, determine the communication preference of your direct reports by asking them. You could use the polling function in your virtual meeting software to determine the preferred means of the group as a whole or ask each person individually via telephone or email. 

Second, communicate clearly and concisely via telephone and email to avoid communication pitfalls. For voice-mail messages, ensure they are clear and brief—explaining the reason for your call, what you specifically need and by when, and how she or he can reach you with questions. Avoid miscommunication and the infamous phone-tag game. For email messages, start with a clear subject line that identifies your purpose, keep them short and concise, and emphasize a call to action in the body of the message. 

Third, know what you want and or need before discussing it in a virtual meeting. Be direct and avoid assumptions. Because virtual teams struggle with social cues—such as gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice, be precise, direct and very specific about expectations:

Poor Example: “Please provide a brief summary on the status of our project.”

Better Example: “Please email me three to five bullet points summarizing the status of our retention project by 3 p.m. today (Monday) which I’ll use to update the executive team tomorrow morning.”

Collaborating effectively with a mobile workforce is simply a matter of rethinking inclusion. For example, it might not make sense to conference someone in to cut a birthday cake, but you can send them a card signed by their office teammates. 

What are some tips to prepare to invite dialog so it's not a one-sided lecture, but a two-way conversation?  

When wanting to invite dialogue, be careful of how you say the opening statement and continue the conversation:

Choose words carefully. They have meaning and do matter.

Avoid stating points using absolutes, like “always” and “never.”

Be specific about the concern. Avoid vague generalities.

Use positive statements; avoid stating points using negative words, as they can cause emotional responses.

Focus on the issue rather than the person. People aren’t bad; a person’s behavior can be less than desired.

Avoid using the word “you” when addressing the situation. Saying the word “you” can feel like a personal attack. 

Often times the employee on the receiving end of the crucial conversation takes feedback as criticism instead of taking the feedback as feedback and they can become defensive and tune out. How can we reduce this defensiveness so that the information is received clearly to drive results and effect the change needed?

If we are able to effectively control our emotions and engage in dialogue, we’ll be more likely to understand each other’s perspective. Prior to having a tough conversation, consider using these strategies:

PREPARE! Think through how the discussion may go and how you’ve (and the other person) reacted in the past.

Proactively access why someone would react a certain way and how you can best handle that response(s).

Consider your conflict triggers, and the other person’s too, and guard against them. Six common conflict triggers include:

  1. Competence - questioning your intelligence or skills.
  2. Inclusion – excluding you in some way or implies you’re not a good companion.
  3. Autonomy – controlling or imposing on you or threatening your self-reliance.
  4. Status – threatening or disrespecting your tangible or intangible assets—including power, position, economic worth, and attractiveness.
  5. Reliability – questioning your trustworthiness or dependability.
  6. Morality – questioning your moral values or integrity.

Then during the conversation, these tactics can be very helpful to better ensure your emotions remain in control:

  • Consciously lower your voice.
  • Acknowledge the other person’s feelings.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • If other person’s emotions are high, remind yourself what’s important and other person is likely hurting.
  • If your emotions are elevating, state you need some time to continue the conversation.

The manager said they had the conversation.... are they finished? is that all? or are there follow-up steps?

Avoid déjà vu dialogue. Set up a follow-up meeting or discussion for a few weeks out for the two of you to chat and to discuss how things are going. Offer small suggestions for change then (if applicable) versus having a similar tough conversation down the road. Usually one follow-up meeting isn’t enough. Each situation dictates a unique follow-up plan. Just don’t assume the other person will change because of one conversation. Behavior change is difficult. It takes discipline, perseverance and ongoing commitment.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER: TRACY BUTZ is the infusion of an engaging, powerful and poignant speaker, who masterfully influences positive behavior change. She proudly holds the designation of Certified Speaking Professional® (CSP), which is the highest honor in her profession, held by only 12 percent of speakers worldwide. She also brings more than 20 years of speaking experience with clients including the U.S. Army, Motorola and Subway. With a genuine love for writing, Tracy became a best-selling author, now with her fifth book recently published. As a speaker of choice, Tracy is committed to helping you live a more passionate and productive life.



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