Episode: The Non-Negotiable Requirement for Growth
Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.
Megan Hyatt Miller: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.
Michael: And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. Today, we’re going to be talking about your growth and success will be determined by your capacity for discomfort. And by you, I mean all of us.
Megan: This is something I feel like we don’t talk about enough in leadership, and consequently, a lot of leaders come into leadership with misaligned expectations to what it’s really going to be like. Let me give you a little story as an example.
A few years ago, one of my direct reports came to me, and she was having a problem with one of her direct reports. She needed to do some performance coaching. She was fairly new to leadership, so she hadn’t had a lot of these conversations yet. She was really nervous about it. She was asking for advice. She was making talking points. All that kind of stuff.
When it came down to it, she was just commenting to me on the fact that basically she was shaking in her boots. I was like, “Well, of course.” She looked at me, and she was like, “What do you mean, ‘of course’? Are you telling me this is normal?” I’m like, “It’s absolutely normal. In fact, if it’s ever not normal, then something’s probably wrong. Your empathy meter is kind of off track.”
The reason is because there is so much vulnerability that is a part of leadership. Whenever you’re going to do something vulnerable…which we’re going to get into, these things that cause us to feel uncomfortable…we experience all those emotions. We experience doubt. We experience uncertainty. All those feelings we talk about when we talk about things like goal setting that we’re familiar with. But we expect somehow magically when we’re in a leadership situation, that if we are “the leader” then we’re just going to feel confident all the time. In fact, that’s not the truth at all.
I was sharing with her, “The good news is over time you will build confidence in some of these areas where you feel really uncomfortable right now, but you’re probably not going to feel comfortable.” Dad, we were talking about this over lunch a little bit, and you said, “Yeah. The thing you’re going to feel is confident you’re going to survive; not confident it’s going to be easy.” Right?
I think what this direct report of mine found is that she was nervous on the front end, she went through the situation, and on the back end, she was more confident, and more importantly, she knew she had grown, because the next time this comes up, she had the ability to look back and say, “I’ve done this before now, and I can move forward with a little bit of confidence,” but also with the expectation it’s probably going to be uncomfortable.
Michael: Well, I have to say, I don’t like this part of leadership.
Megan: I know! Me neither.
Michael: It’s my least favorite part of it. When I say it out loud, it sounds stupid, but when I think about it, it makes sense. But I keep thinking I’m going to get to this point in my leadership where everything will be so familiar that everything’s comfortable.
Michael: I remember Dan Sullivan talking about one time how entrepreneurs have to be wary of this, because we take risks to succeed. We’re used to doing that early in our career. But then we try to kind of create an environment where we engineer the risk out of it so we can live comfortable. Once we start doing that, he said (and I think he’s right), that’s kind of when we start dying, because this is kind of the precondition for growth.
Now I want to see if this trues up with you. In taking a risk, one of the things, believe it or not, having giving now hundreds, maybe thousands, of speeches, that still is always uncomfortable for me. I never start the preparation process for a new speech without thinking to myself… It’s probably not this well-formed or this clear, but there’s this sense that this time it might not work out.
Michael: This time I’m going to get on stage and make a fool of myself, or I’m not going to connect. But there’s always kind of that looming thing of, “Will I pull it off this time?” So as I was telling you, I spoke on Saturday. I got up early because I was still working on my speech. I got up at 4:00 on Saturday morning. This is not typical for me to work on the weekends, but this was a particular weekend where I just had to do it.
Megan: Well, this was also like a church thing.
Michael: Yeah. It was like a church thing, so I didn’t feel good about taking time away from work on that. So I was working on my own time. But I was up at 4:00 a.m. and I literally worked up until 45 minutes before I had to give the speech.
Megan: Oh my gosh.
Michael: I was pretty confident. I was working methodically, and I’m constantly recalibrating and thinking, “Okay. I have enough time. I have enough time. I’m going to make it. I’m going to make.” And I did make it, and it turned out great. But there was still that thing in the back of my head that said, “Maybe this time you won’t make it.” Do you have that?
Megan: Yeah. Oh, like every day I have that. I mean, literally, every day most weeks there’s something I’m doing that I feel uncomfortable with. I don’t mean like uncomfortable from an integrity standpoint. I just mean I am somewhere out over my skis. It’s like in one of the Lord of the Rings movies, I think, that Elijah Wood’s character says something about like, “This is as far as we’ve ever been.” That’s how I feel. This is as far as I’ve ever been. I’m doing this thing I’ve never done before.
I think we have a choice at that moment to either lean in, and that will contribute to our success, or we pull back to preserve our own comfort, to avoid the feelings of vulnerability and exposure and all those terrible feelings, and we hold ourselves back. I mean, I think that is a decision we’re faced with as leaders every day, especially if you’re in a high-growth context where growth is required of you.
These situations present themselves to you day after day after day. I think if we come to expect it, we can kind of make friends with that, and that’s where we can find the path to growth. But if we fight it, or we expect that it shouldn’t have to be that way, then we’re going to find our own growth and success for that matter much slower.
So here’s a question I feel like our listeners may be wondering, Dad. Do you think there’s any scenario in which this so-called requirement for growth, this needing to lean in to discomfort, is avoidable? I mean, is there any way around this point?
Michael: First of all, if there is, I’d love to find it.
Megan: Right. Please email us.
Michael: Yeah. Email us. But I think that when you get to this fork in the road, and what makes it non-negotiable is the choice is whether or not you’re going to grow. Because the only way you grow is to put yourself in a situation where, as you said, you’re a little bit out over your skis. Just think about what makes working out work? What makes muscle growth happen? You kind of have to take your muscles or your endurance or your stretching or whatever it is to the point of failure, and that’s when you grow.
Now you have to also surge and retreat, work out and rest, but there has to be that point where you go a little bit past what you’re used to in order for the muscle to be broken down to grow back stronger. Do you think that’s a fair metaphor?
Megan: I do. Kind of like you said at the beginning, I kind of hate this. I feel like this is actually a law of the universe sort of thing, that there is absolutely no way around this. You can be comfortable and stay right where you are or go backward, or you can be uncomfortable and you can move forward. But if you want to move forward, if you want to become more successful, if you want to become more effective as a leader, if you want to have more impact in the world, there is just no way around this.
Michael: Well, the good thing about knowing this is that just knowing you’re not abnormal is hugely helpful. I used to suffer in silence. I thought, “Gosh, I’m the only person who gets super scared before I step on stage. I’m the only person who has a lot of self-doubt as I begin to prepare a talk or as I begin to call on a customer.”
I can remember the first time I had a client coaching session. I thought to myself, “Gosh, do I really have anything to contribute? I don’t feel that intuitive. Am I going to be able to ask the right questions?” Just a flood of self-doubt until I started talking to other coaches, and I started talking to other speakers, and I found out that’s pretty normal. So then it was at least like, “Okay. So I guess that’s just part of the price you pay as a leader.” But what’s the benefit on the other side?
In fact, I wanted to ask you this question, Megan. What gets you over the hump? I’m going to think of a specific situation we’ve talked about on the show before. For years, you were not enthusiastic about speaking. You were scared to death.
Megan: That’s an understatement.
Michael: Yeah. You were scared to death. But at some point, you said, “No. I have to lean into this and do it.” I don’t what all the backstory was. I know some of the story. But what got you to the point where you were willing to lean into that and overcome what for you was a primal fear of speaking?
Megan: Yeah. I think it was a few things. I think I knew the moment had come where if I was going to lead this company into the future, it was going to require speaking. I was either going to choose not to lead the company into the future and retreat or I was going to just lean in and do it scared.
There was not a scenario where I was going to do it not scared. I knew that. I knew enough to know this is either be the most uncomfortable you’ve ever been in your life…that is absolutely accurate to what I experienced leading up to it. Actually being on stage was fine. It was the six weeks getting there that was brutal…or I could just take a big giant step back.
I knew I didn’t want to look back and say I missed the opportunity to have a huge impact. I missed the opportunity to reach my potential. I missed the opportunity to be an example for my kids and for my team. I just couldn’t live with that. So that why was so compelling that I was willing to do literally the most terrifying thing I could’ve imagined. If you had said, “You can speak on stage to 800 people or you can swim with sharks,” I would’ve picked the sharks every day, all day. I mean, that’s where I was.
I think that’s such a helpful story maybe because it’s so extreme. Most of us aren’t faced with a choice like that every day, but I think, to your point, having a sense of what’s at stake if you don’t do it is helpful in motivating yourself to lean in.
I feel like there are essentially three areas we have to embrace discomfort in in order to succeed. You’ve already, Dad, talked about the first one, but I think we could unpack it a little more. That is taking risks.
Taking risks is probably the one we think of most naturally when we talk about discomfort in leadership. But what do you think is so difficult about taking risks? Because in some ways this comes very naturally to leaders, especially entrepreneurial leaders. But what is it, do you think?
Michael: I think there’s always the possibility of failure that’s looming out there. It’s not just failure, but it’s an unknown failure. In other words, you don’t know how big it’s going to be or what the damage is going to be. You just know there’s the possibility of failing. I had a situation last week, Megan, you are well aware of. We did a big webinar for BusinessAccelerator. To be honest, I had worked my butt off getting ready for this. It was a big deal.
The first indication there was trouble was that I couldn’t bring your video signal in. You were in a different location. I tried to bring your video signal in, and it was just really jaggy, laggy. You would freeze at times and all that. You said, “Okay. Well, Dad, let me get my car, and I’ll run over to your studio in your house, and we’ll just do it together from there.”
I quickly revamped all the slides and all the stuff I was doing and got ready for that. Then you came over, and then we started it. We went for about 15 minutes, and this is the first time this has ever happened, at least that I can remember, in eight years of doing webinars, probably a couple hundred webinars. But the total thing just crashed and burned. It was an utter, epic tech failure. Right?
We had 400 people on the webinar at the time. I said, “Guys, I don’t know what else to do. We’re just going to have to shut it down and reschedule.” That was like my worst nightmare. I was humiliated. I was embarrassed. I felt like I had prepared for this. I’d prayed about it. I did everything, and then it was this epic fail.
Well, that wasn’t actually the hard part. If we had said, “Okay. Let’s reschedule it for a week from now,” well, then I just knew I would have time emotionally to recover, and I’d be my confident self, and I’d go into that thinking, “Okay. This was an anomaly, but I’m okay now.” But no. We looked at the calendar, we worked with our team, and we said, “No. We have to do it this afternoon.”
So the failure happened at about 10:30 in the morning, and we said we have to reschedule for 2:00 this afternoon. Now I’d used up all my confidence on the first one, and I’m feeling like I’m totally unconfident. I’m not sure if the tech is going to work, and I was scared spitless. I just thought, “Man, is this going to happen again?” I wasn’t confident in the tech. I wasn’t confident in myself. All that. But thankfully, we went forward, and it felt like a non-negotiable. We had to do it.
So I did it, and it was kind of flawless. The tech worked beautifully. For whatever reason, once I got into it a few minutes, my confidence came back. Then I stopped thinking about failing. Then I find this every single time. Once I take that first step, take that first leap, and actually get into it, even getting on stage, I might be scared till I get on stage, then I’m totally in my element. I love it. But it’s getting there. It’s taking that step, crossing the transom that’s the scariest part.
Megan: I think that’s true. I think what you said about being humiliated is key. There is a vulnerability to taking risk because there’s so much unknown that is the real hook here. The reason we don’t do this is because the potential for being humiliated, that ambiguous sense of vulnerability, like you’re exposed in some way and you may get hurt, is so out there.
You talked at the beginning about how oftentimes we avoid taking risks the more successful we are. We avoid it maybe early in our career because we don’t have a lot of confidence yet. Then we get a little confidence, we take more risk, then we later on have an inclination to stop. I think that’s because the vulnerability is greater. There’s so much more to lose.
In your case, how many bajillions of successful webinars have you done? People know that. Right? So to have everything fall apart, it’s not like, “Oh well, it’s his first webinar. Bless his heart.” No. It’s not your first webinar. You’re known for doing these amazing webinars, and to have it fall apart in your hands, the consequences of that are greater at your professional stage than it would’ve been eight years ago when you hadn’t done one ever before.
Michael: Well, this is where I think we have to as leaders reframe failure and even humiliation. Honestly, it’s a good thing when it happens occasionally. Because there’s nothing worse…we’ve all met these people…who seem to have one success after another, have never really been tempered by failure. That’s also something I don’t want.
I think being humbled periodically is a very good thing for your soul, and it’s good for the people you lead, because it keeps you in touch with empathy, which is something you need as a leader to be effective. I know there are a lot of people…I got emails from people…who said, “Man, it was so great to see you fail. I mean, I’m not happy you failed. I hate it for you, but honestly, it made me feel better about myself.”
Megan: Yeah. It’s true. I experienced this also, this sense of vulnerability around risk taking, especially when I’m taking a risk to present something I’m thinking about that’s really from my heart. If it’s something from my head and I have a lot of analysis around it, that feels much less vulnerable. It feels much less risky. I’ve really worked to engineer the risk out.
But when I’m going to share a new project… I’ve got something I’m working on right now that eventually we’ll share here on the podcast if we decide to move forward with it. But if we decide to move forward with that, this is something that is coming out of a deep place in my heart. When I shared it the first time with our team, I thought, “I don’t know what they’re going to think about it. Are they going to laugh? Are they going to think it’s stupid? Are they going to think like she’s totally not connected to reality?”
It turns out they loved it, but I didn’t know. So there’s that moment of decision of like, “Am I going to share it, knowing that if I’m rejected, that feels different in this situation because this is so personal to me?” Or am I going to just say, “No. I don’t think I’ll share it. I’ll wait for a better time or wait till I have a little more confidence,” and avoid it?
In fact, when I do, I often have this physical sensation…this happens to me a lot…where I get really flushed on my neck. I get hot. It’s like my body manifests the vulnerability that I feel. I hate it. At least my face doesn’t flush, but my neck flushes all the time if I’m passionate, nervous, excited, hot. It doesn’t matter. I’m just trying to say for all of you guys listening, this is what it’s like. Nobody talks about this stuff, but we need to talk about it.
Michael: Well, it’s interesting that you mention this, because I think the only way we push through these kinds of obstacles, this fear of failure, and actually do the thing we fear, is we have to have a bigger reason on the other side of the obstacle that has to be bigger than the obstacle. Otherwise, we’re not going to do it. Right?
I don’t want to teach a Bible lesson, but there’s this great story most everybody is familiar with whether you’re a Christian or not, of David and Goliath. If you actually look at that passage, David is this young guy. He is sent by his dad to check on his brothers who are stalemated with the Philistines. There’s Goliath. He’s this giant and this champion, and he just keeps taunting the Israelites.
So David goes around and he says, “Okay. So what’s the king going to do for the guy who defeats Goliath?” They say, “Oh well, he’s going to get to marry the king’s daughter. He doesn’t have to pay taxes.” I can’t remember what the other thing was. It was like the guy was going to get a bunch of money or something.
David was like, “Okay.” In the text, he literally asks three times, “What’s going to happen to the guy who kills Goliath?” I don’t know if this is the case, but it seems like he’s looking for a reason that’s bigger than the giant to take the giant on. And he finds it. He goes out, and he kills Goliath.
But I think it’s a great, great metaphor for what happens to us. We have to find the bigger why that’ll enable us to take on the giant. That giant looks different for everybody. Maybe if you’re in sales, it’s cold calling. Maybe if you’re designing a product or creating a course you want to sell online, you just have never done it before. Maybe it’s the technology that’s the giant. Or thinking about hiring people, and you’ve never supervised people. That’s the giant.
Whatever it is, I think you have to get a bigger reason that lies beyond the giant if you’re going to have the fortitude to take it on.
Megan: I love that. It’s so practical and so true. I’ve had that happen so many times, and hopefully that’s helpful to you guys listening.
Male: There’s a musician named Bill Wurtz. He’s kind of quirky. He doesn’t use social media. He has a website that people just ask him questions on. It’s like the most basic site ever. Somebody asked him a couple of days ago, “How do you stop feeling imperfection?” He has really jokey answers. He said, “Try doing just one tiny thing bad just to get a taste of it.”
I was really struck by the deliberate nature of that response, which is like, “Just do the bad thing. If the stakes are always so high and you can’t feel like you can fail, then why would you ever try?” So the idea of going, “I’m going to go paint today. I’m bad at paint. I’m going to just go do it. This is fine.” That just doesn’t feel bad.
Megan: I think G. K. Chesterton said if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly, which I think is helpful in this case.
Michael: Another version of that is, “Don’t worry; be crappy.”
Larry Wilson: I think I had a singing fish with that at one point.
Megan: Yeah. That’s fantastic.
Okay. I think another area where we have to embrace discomfort…we really don’t talk about this…is accepting negative feedback as leaders. This is a really tough one, because most leaders are going to default to creating a culture around them where they intentionally or unintentionally insulate themselves from negative feedback.
They don’t want to hear it from their team. They don’t want to hear it from their clients and customers. They get angry about it. They push it off in some way. They ask to not see it. They really want to avoid this. But, man, you cannot grow if you don’t have constructive, or sometimes destructive, criticism.
Michael: Well, this is very present to me, because over lunch today, you gave me some negative feedback.
Megan: Oh, that’s right. I did.
Michael: Yeah. About a situation. But I think one of the things that has helped me is God gave me five strong-willed daughters who are not afraid to speak their mind and a wife who’s not afraid to speak her mind. But it’s always challenging. I mean, naturally, I want to defend myself. I want to say something like, “Oh, but you don’t have the full context. Let me just explain, and then you’ll see the negative feedback you’re offering me isn’t warranted.”
But the truth is you miss the opportunity to grow when you do that. I think I’ve learned over time…sometimes I do it better than others…to just get quiet and try to see it from the other person’s perspective, because I realize, “Okay. Here’s an opportunity for growth if I can receive this. What if this was a gift?”
I think so many leaders don’t have it framed as a gift. They see it as a threat. When somebody is sharing some negative feedback, they think all of a sudden, their identity, or what they’ve done, is at risk here or at fault, and they feel the need to defend it. But if somehow you can separate your behavior from your identity…
Like in that particular situation, Megan, when you were sharing it with me, I thought, “Well…” I mean, I didn’t think it this consciously, but that’s not my identity; that was a behavior. Megan is exactly right, and I need to change.
Megan: Well, it’s funny, because I think it is so natural to fight this. Right? You are going to have everything you said just come up. I think part of what we’re trying to do here is help calibrate people’s expectations of what’s naturally going to happen but then give you an alternative.
So your natural impulse is going to be defensive. But I’ll tell you what. When I see people who encounter negative feedback and then watch them respond, it tells me a lot about their character. It tells me a lot about their strength internally. It tells me a lot about who they want to become.
You’ll see a really stark difference between the people who take a deep breath, and they have a conversation in their head, and they choose to lean into that, and the ones who make it all about saving their reputation, as if somehow there’s a scenario in which people will never think you do anything wrong. It’s kind of like an unexamined expectation that really gets in the way of growth.
The truth is if you’re taking risks as a leader, if you’re being innovative, if you’re taking initiative, you are going to make mistakes. You’re going to make calls that are wrong or misguided. You’re going to hurt people’s feelings. You’re going to say things that are inappropriate for the moment, or whatever. It’s just going to happen. I think if we can expect that, and then be grateful when people come to us to help us see it so we can stop making that mistake…
You know, what I want to see in people is not people not making mistakes; I want to see people not making the same mistakes over and over again. I have no expectation that people are going to be perfect. But this is a definite one that we win it by having a conversation in our head that’s helpful instead of unproductive.
Michael: Well, I think the real gamechanger for me is realizing that when I accept negative feedback, it makes people actually think more highly of me, not less highly.
Megan: Exactly. Right.
Michael: Like, for example, if when we were raising you girls, if I let my anger get the best of me, or I said something offensive, or whatever, offended you in some way, I thought, “Well, if I admit that, they’ll think less of me.” But the truth is, they’ve already thought less of me because of the behavior.
The only thing that can actually repair it is for me to admit it. Then all of a sudden, the esteem goes back up, the trust goes back up, and you have a chance to even bond in a tighter, closer way. The same thing is true with the people on our team. They see the problem. The only question is…Do we see it?
Megan: Yeah. It’s kind of like the emperor has no clothes. Right? The only person not aware there’s a problem is the person in question. Everybody else is aware of it. If you can accept that…
My esteem goes up for people exponentially when they take responsibility after they’re presented with negative feedback. I mean, oh my gosh. It’s like some kind of catapult for your position in the organization, because it just shows you have the maturity to handle your own failure in the moment and be with yourself in that. It’s actually a powerful tool for advancement.
By the way, this is true at home, and this is true at work. I think you and I were talking about not long ago that I can remember growing up, and I hated to admit when I was wrong. I mean, it was just like personal defeat. I hated that feeling of failure was so powerful. Then I became a parent, and I started failing all the time, as many parents do. On a daily basis at least, I have the opportunity to ask someone for forgiveness for something, because when you have five kids there are just lots of opportunities for growth that are presented.
What I realized…just exactly like what you said…is that when you are in a position of power, and you take negative feedback from people who are in a lower position than you, it’s huge. It is huge in terms of people’s trust and respect for you.
Michael: We had a person on our team last week who stepped up in Slack, as you recall, and took total ownership for this specific fail and said, “Look, this was a failure of my leadership.” I promise you, his value to everybody shot up because he was willing to own it.
Megan: Totally! Yeah. I mean, it’s just amazing. I think this is one of those underappreciated areas that if you can leverage and learn how to tolerate the discomfort of accepting that negative feedback and then come up with a great response of ownership, that’s one of the most powerful things you can do for your effectiveness as a leader.
Michael: And you might have to pep talk yourself.
Megan: Oh, you will have to pep talk yourself. You will.
Michael: You’re just like, “Okay. I’m not going to resist.” I think we need an episode on holding space when we talk about this. So we’ll link that in the show notes. But I think that’s a very valuable concept, to just take a deep breath, don’t react, be very thoughtful about what you say next. Take the full hit. Internalize it. See if there’s any truth to it. Admit what you can. Then move on.
Megan: Yeah. I think you’re exactly right. When someone comes to me with negative feedback, which is pretty frequent, my conversation in my head is, “Breathe. Relax your face. Relax your body. Don’t say anything yet. Still don’t say anything yet. Listen.”
Michael: “Hold. Hold.”
Megan: I mean, that’s literally what’s in my mind. I am not kidding you. That conversation is happening in my head every single time, because my impulse is to scowl, to stop breathing, to try to find my moment to interject and defend myself. So I have to be my own coach in that moment.
Michael: Here’s another example where this helps me. Let’s just say somebody comes to you, and 95 percent of it is bogus. Misinterpretation. They didn’t get it right. But if I can own the 5 percent or the 1 percent and not fixate on the 95 percent that’s bogus, I’ll grow as a leader.
Megan: That’s right.
Michael: So what’s the grain of truth? What’s the element of truth in this I can own? Because if I can own that, I’m going to grow. Being defensive just is not helpful.
Megan: It doesn’t look good on anybody.
Michael: No. It’s not.
Megan: It’s like the old saying, “Do you want to be right or you want to be happy?” Do you want to be right or do you want to be successful?
Michael: That’s exactly right.
Okay. So you said there were three areas we need to embrace if we’re going to succeed and if we’re going to grow. But three areas we need to embrace where we need to embrace discomfort. What’s the third one?
Megan: The third one is leading uncomfortable conversations. This is another hard one that I never relish and always am glad when it’s over. But in so many different contexts, you are going to need to initiate hard conversations with people, whether that’s about their performance, about something you know they’re not going to like, an organizational change of some kind. In these conversations, you’re going to have to step out, usually on your own, in vulnerability to say something the other person is going to find hard to hear.
Your instinct is going to be, again as we’ve said now many times, to retreat, to talk yourself out of why you can do it later, or how somebody else could do it. The truth is you are the one to do it. You need to have that conversation. You probably need to have it now. It’s not going to get any easier by waiting or by putting it off. In fact, it’s probably going to get worse. I feel resistance every time I have to do this, and I probably have one to three uncomfortable conversations every week.
Michael: Okay. I have to ask a question. I’ve noticed a big difference in your leadership in the last year, and particularly the last three months. Okay. So I feel like you’ve gotten more confident, more willing to enter into those tough conversations. What has shifted for you?
Megan: Well, I think the biggest thing that has shifted, besides just the challenges of 2020 and the fact that all of us had to have way more uncomfortable conversations than we’ve ever probably had to have… Right? I mean, that’s what was demanded of our leadership. Somebody had to do it, and it was probably you, and it probably had to happen pretty frequently. So I think that was just a great accelerator for growth all by itself.
But I think the other thing I realized that was a hard realization for me is that when I avoided the conversations I avoided, and plenty of times that happened, I did it out of selfish reasons. I did it to keep myself comfortable, and I did it at the expense of the people who needed to hear what I needed to say.
That’s not out of arrogance, like, “I’m so important.” It’s just that whether it’s talking with someone, a direct report, about how what they gave me wasn’t quite what I needed, or really wasn’t what I needed in that moment or talking to the team about tough decisions we had to make or plans, or whatever, the reason I wouldn’t do it is because I hate the feeling of being uncomfortable. Right?
Who likes it? It’s a terrible feeling to wonder, “How is this going to be received? Are they going to get angry? Are they going to leave?” You go through all those what-if scenarios in your mind. Then you can very easily talk yourself out of it. But instead, what I have really learned to do and am learning to do more and more…I want this to be something that becomes my default…is when push comes to shove, I’m going to stand for the greatness in the people I’m leading.
Michael: Okay. So that right there, I think, can make a huge difference. That is how you view the people you have to have the uncomfortable conversation with. Now I learned this first from my coach Ilene, who since became your coach. She talked about this with me. I said, “How do you go into these big corporations…” where she was an executive coach, “…and you’re talking to a guy who’s running a multi-billion-dollar company?”
She said to me, “Well, first of all, I think I have something they need to hear. Second, I’m taking a stand for their greatness. Not who they are, but who they could become.” And I thought this was the most powerful. “Third, I don’t see them as fragile.”
I think that too often we see our kids, or we see the people we work with, we think to ourselves, “Well, they can’t handle this.” So we’re not as direct as we should be, or we beat around the bush, or we never have the conversation, and we deprive them of the opportunity to go to the next level, not because they’re fragile, but if I think you really look at it, it’s because it’s a deficiency in our view of our own role in their lives.
Megan: It’s actually we think we’re too fragile. We’re projecting all this stuff on them, but actually it’s what we think about us. We don’t think we’re great. We’re not standing for our own greatness, and we think we can’t handle it. The way you deal with that is you act like you are, and you do it anyway.
Michael: That’s right. Fake it till you make it.
Megan: I mean, there’s no way around it. I’m sorry. I wish there was.
Michael: Every time I’ve gone into one of those uncomfortable conversations…I think I can say this pretty much batting 1.000…I’ve never come out of one of those conversations sorry I brought that up.
Megan: No. Never.
Michael: It always goes better than I think. It’s again like that whole thing with Goliath. You make the giant so big in your mind that it becomes almost an unconquerable force, something you can’t get past. Again, what you’ve got to do is get fixated on just past the obstacle. You know, what’s the reward for them and for you if you can have this conversation?
What would happen if that person who’s not delivering according to your specification, or they drop the ball, if they could go to the next level, what would that make possible for them? What would it make possible for your company?
Megan: Totally. And just expect it to be uncomfortable. Feeling confident and full of courage is not a prerequisite for having hard conversations.
Michael: That’s exactly right.
Megan: I mean, you do not have to feel the way you want to feel to do what you need to do. And that is really freeing actually. I think that’s another big thing for me. When I realized I could do all kinds of things that I needed to do and did not feel like doing, that just broke open so many areas of my life, because it’s not necessary.
You will feel confident once it’s done. You’ll feel proud of yourself and courageous when it’s done. You’re not going to feel that on the front end. You’re going to feel anxiety. You’re going to have sweaty palms if you’re me. Your neck is going to be all red. You’re just going to have to go on anyway. That’s just part of it.
I remember one time I heard Brené Brown talking about how when she went into conversations like this…she talks about this a lot; I always appreciate her willingness to be transparent…that she makes notes. She goes into a conversation that’s hard, and she has talking points. So if the other person gets emotional, if she gets emotional, she can use it as a compass to come back and find her true north again so she can successfully get through the points she needs to say.
It’s our practice at Michael Hyatt & Company…thankfully this doesn’t happen very often…but if we have to terminate somebody, we go into those conversations with talking points. We know exactly what we’re going to say. Everybody has been briefed on it. The hiring manager, the HR director, everybody knows what’s going to happen. There’s a clear approach, because when anxiety is high, when emotions are high, it can be easy to forget what you wanted to say or what you need to say. So if you have that, it can give you some confidence in that process.
Michael: Okay. Just to wrap this up. One of the things I think is so important as a leader to learn about yourself is to come to the place where you can say to yourself, “You know what? I can do hard things.” I think that’s a gift we can give to our kids. Help them to do hard things. Because that’s what gives you true confidence. Not phony confidence, but a real confidence. The ability to know that whatever comes your way, no matter how difficult it is, you can handle it.
It doesn’t mean you won’t have all the usual emotions of fear and uncertainty and doubt, but you can do hard things. You can get through to the other side. And 90 percent of it is just willing to take that first step, cross the transom, and put yourself into that situation.
Megan: Well, guys, I hope that has been helpful for you. I hope our candid revelation of all the areas we need to lean into discomfort has freed you in some way to embrace that for yourself, along with the growth that comes with it. Thanks for being with us today, and until next week, lead to win.