The Discomfort Zone

The Discomfort Zone

How leaders turn difficult conversations into breakthroughs

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Marcia Reynolds has been around the coaching and leadership world for a while, and so when she writes, leaders should pay attention. Certainly it has been my experience that the most difficult conversations for leaders to have are the ones that are also the most filled with potential — the underperforming employee, the difficult interpersonal dynamics, the conflicting goals. Reynolds very skillfully unpacks the dynamics around these conversations and recognizes that they are incredibly uncomfortable — but it’s in the discomfort that, with structure and preparation, the magic can happen. First of all, she challenges leaders to seek out these opportunities — even if they are problematic. It is the job of leaders to grow and take on these challenges as well. And then, it’s important to care — and show that you care. Caring does not mean agreement — it doesn’t mean that you let the employee off the hook. It means that you’re a human being and the conversation starts from a place of empathy. Finally, what do you say? Reynolds has a “map” and “milestones” that can be used along the way. Like any skill, turning these difficult conversations into breakthroughs requires practice, effort and mindfulness. I would also argue that it’s worth it, and as you grow and develop these skills, you’ll see your employees do the same, and that improves the workplace for everyone.


Lisa Sansom

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