WGR Blog January

Crucial Conversations Ė Yes, you CAN!

Is there something about your job, your office or your role that has been keeping you up at night? Something you need to talk to your boss about? A promotion? A raise? You need to speak up, otherwise no one else will.
Recently, I felt like I wasnít receiving any real feedback from my boss and I wasnít getting the recognition either in title or compensation that I thought I deserved. It felt like the organization was passing me by. How was I going to fix that? I couldnít do it by myself, because I didnít have the power to change things. But my boss did. He could give me the feedback, the advice and - the promotion and raise that I thought I deserved. I realized that I wasnít just going to be given these things and that maybe my boss didnít know I wanted these things. He didnít know what my goals were because Iíve never told him.
I thought back to the WGR Leadership Program I participated in last year. We had an entire session dedicated to crucial conversations. I knew I had the tools I needed in order to have this conversation, I just needed to use them. I went back over my notes from that exercise. I COULD do this.
I wanted to be in control of my own future. I just needed to take action. - I went home, pulled out a notebook and wrote down what I was going to do. I wrote, erased, and wrote again. I scratched things out, edited, and rewrote again. I must have written ten pages of bullet points. Then, I highlighted those that were most important and culled my talking points to the most relevant, important and solvable.
The next morning I asked for a few minutes of my bossí time and had one of the most honest conversations Iíve ever had with him. -.  I said I felt like I wasnít reaching my potential and shared what new opportunities Iíd like to have, what my goals were for the short and long term. I offered solutions and new ideas. Then I asked him to work with me to reach these goals, including a promotion and raise. Was he able to give me what I asked for at that moment? No, but I didnít expect that. But we did agree to work as a team so that I can continue to grow as a professional. We agreed to a plan and to having more honest and frequent conversations. I left feeling better about myself, my position and my outlook for the year. Now he knows what I need and want as a professional, and hopefully, as the year passes, he will have my goals in mind when new opportunities arise.

This conversation was a novel idea to me, but it really shouldnít be. We canít expect our supervisors to guess what we want. We are in control of our own future. We need to speak up because itís unlikely someone else will.

Some lessons I learned from the leadership training and my own personal experience having a tough conversation:

  1. Prepare. Go into the conversation knowing what you want to say and how you want to say it. Practice in front of a mirror. Write talking points and bring them with you. You want to cover the concerns you have without getting sidetracked. You would not go into another important business meeting unprepared, so why wouldnít you prepare for this one?
  2. Be honest. Itís important to be honest and realistic with yourself Ė and your boss. Before the conversation, write down  your accomplishments over the past year. Review your goals and be honest with yourself Ė did you meet them? Are you on track to meet them? Put yourself in your bossí shoes. What would you say about you? If you arenít performing to your ability, there may be a reason that youíre not getting a promotion or raise. Do you deserve it based upon your performance? Make sure youíre looking at things from all directions, and not just because you think you deserve it.
  3. Be objective. - Along with preparation and honesty, you have to be objective. Comparing yourself to colleagues wonít win you a promotion or - a new opportunity. Instead, stand on your own accomplishments and track record. Resist the urge to complain. Instead, share your concerns and offer a solution. Complaining itís unfair that a coworker gets all the new, exciting projects doesnít have as much impact as saying ďI know we have several new projects coming our way. Iíd really like to take on additional responsibilities and tackle something new. And hereís whyÖĒ and go into some concrete reasons.
  4. Manage emotions. Many women have difficulty with these types of conversations because they fear being emotional or -being rejected. Fear often translates to an emotional reaction. Go into the conversation prepared and confident which will alleviate some of the fear. And be realistic about your fears Ė What are you scared about? Getting fired? Going into your bossí office and having a professional and rational conversation with him/her isnít likely to get you fired. What do you really have to lose?

So speak up for yourself and share whatís most important to you, what you want, and what you need to be successful. Your boss likely wants you to be successful and will appreciate knowing what it will take to reach your goals.

The author is a WGR member who participated in Leadership in the 21st Century, A transformational leadership program. Click here to learn more.