What Having “The Talk” with Your Teenager Has to Do with Being a Better Leader
August 2, 2022 | Mark Altman
What does having a talk with your kid about sex have in common with having a conversation with your leadership team about change?
Both are courageous, vulnerable conversations that are made easier and more effective when approached with curiosity.
Before I spoke to my own children about sex, I internally reflected on my goals for the conversation and considered:
- How can I have this conversation in a way that facilitates open-mindedness and allows my child to process this information on his terms, not mine?
- What is the right amount of information to share? How long should this conversation be?
- How much of the conversation should be me talking versus the child talking?
Often, parents think about having a conversation with their kids about sex as a major event, but one of the best pieces of advice I got was to have multiple conversations to keep the lines of communication open. I kept this wisdom in mind and headed into the conversation with curiosity.
After the conversation ended, my immediate reaction was, “That didn’t go well,” which was a cue for me to be curious. The second I feel that something didn’t meet my expectations, I ask: what is that based on? Is it based on body language I noticed, actual feedback I received, outcomes I set that weren’t met, or something subjective? Even body language isn’t always clear, so being curious meant questioning my assumption that the conversation didn’t go well and having clear criteria for evaluating whether that was true.
When defaulting to curiosity, if I still feel something didn’t go well, then I return to the two mindset progressions we teach at MindsetGo
- Fixed to Growth Mindset: Instead of “I failed”: what do I need to do differently next time?
- Growth to Advantage Mindset: I acknowledge that I didn’t do well, but ask: how will this serve me? Why is it an advantage that this happened? E.g., I can see what I did wrong, and it will set me up to do better in the future.
When it comes to impactful leadership communication, less is more. Building and sustaining the habit of leading with empathy and defaulting to curiosity will open up communication channels and make people comfortable speaking their truth and not what they think you want to hear.
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