Ignoring crucial moments will spell the end of your organisation


Performance management, execution and delivery are crucial moments for any organisation, says Helene Vermaak, clinical psychologist and co-founder of The Human Edge. Crucial moments are periods when you experience inappropriate behaviour and if you do the right thing in these moments, it will significantly impact on your results and relationships. Conversations during these moments are sensitive, emotionally charged and risky. Unfortunately, many tend to shy away from having conversations at these times because they are emotionally unpleasant and difficult. But if you don’t have these crucial conversations, you could risk irreparably damaging your organisation…

There are two types of crucial moments that we all face – either in our organisations or personal lives:

1.    Moments of disagreement: The question we ask ourselves during these is: “Am I going to speak up and speak out because I know that if I don’t speak out I will act out?”
2.    Moment of disappointment:  During these moments, you need to ask: “How do I deal with those moments of disappointment?”  

You need to identify these crucial moments because, nine times out of ten, there is a crucial conversation that you need to have when these moments occur.

How do you handle crucial conversations in your organisation?

There are two ways people handle crucial conversations. They resort to ‘violence’ or ‘silence’:

  • Violence can be:

–    Controlling behaviour,
–    Labelling, i.e. where we put certain labels on people and try to manipulate them through these labels,
–    Verbal attacks, and
–    Physical attacks (in extreme cases).

  • Silence is when you clam up and don’t interact with the person you’re having a problem with.

To ensure a successful outcome in a communication situation, all participants in the conversation need to get to a place where they feel safe to let their guard down. In other words, everyone needs to have the same goals in mind for the interaction. It is crucial for everyone to be on the same page because if they aren’t, they’ll resort to extreme violence or silence – which won’t solve anything.

Not all conversations are crucial conversations

If the culture in your organisation is relatively sound, only 10% of all conversations are crucial. But this 10% is significant as these interactions have the power to make or break you and your organisation.

So how do you know when you need to have a crucial conversation?

The answer, says Helene, lies in when you feel stuck. And you know that you feel stuck when you don’t get the results you want in your organisation but you can’t figure out how to turn the situation around.
When you face these three elements, you know you need to have a crucial conversation:

  • When you and someone else have opposing opinions,
  • When there are high stakes that will impact your results significantly if you don’t address them, and
  • When you have strong emotions about a situation.

You must speak up in a respectful manner

There is nothing wrong with speaking up and making your feelings known but you need to do this in such a way that you don’t damage relationships because if you do, your conversation won’t be successful. And to do this right you need a special set of tools:

1.    Identify what type of conversation you’re going to have

You can decide to have either a content or a concrete conversation: A content conversation is about occurrences in the business, such as a particular project, while a concrete conversation is about the relationships you have with your colleagues. More often than not, if you really do need to have a crucial conversation, you are going to need to have a concrete conversation before you have a content conversation with them.

2.    Enter into dialogues with people  and don’t resort to silence or violence

When it matters the most, we often tend to do our worst. Something happens when those frenzied emotions kick in, adrenalin starts pumping through your system and the fight (violence) or flight (silence) behaviour begins. When we are under stress, we deal with situations and complex conversations in our lives with our primitive brains. We revert back to using the same set of (low-level) skills we would use to deal with predators. That’s when we damage our results and the relationships in our lives. So to ensure that your crucial conversations go well, avoid the fight or flight mode!

by Lia Marus

This article first appeared on HR Pulse.

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