August 19, 2020

Having Courageous Conversations When Life Gets Hard


Hey everyone today, I wanted to talk to you about creating space to have courageous conversations. This is a really hard topic, and I would say the most difficult decision I had to make through my process was taking ownership and that ability to have the courageous conversations I needed to have with first of all, myself, which I think is frankly the hardest. I think a lot of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to meet our self imposed expectations, which definitely I did, but also what we perceive to be expectations that perhaps our families, our communities, the people around us, and where it could be our husbands or wives or our loved ones.

What I recognized when I was going through this was I did not want to let people down. I didn’t want to let myself down. And I definitely thought basically pleading to a crime would be failure, right?

This is how I saw it. And ultimately I had to have that really courageous conversation with myself, where I had to own up to the fact that I did do something wrong and I needed to recognize it, come forward and take accountability for it and then speak about it, talk about it to others and let them know that I had done something.

So I took a very proactive steps. I would say really through my, it was actually very healing for me because I began to call everybody in my life. I made a spreadsheet of people in my life that I’m close to: Friends, colleagues, mentors, people in the community that I’ve sat on boards with. I really wanted to have a conversation with people about what had happened. So how did I meet my client and, and sort of what progressed along the way, but also, what were the bad decisions I made and ultimately at the end I asked for help.

And that space that I created on every phone call was really hard excruciating. In fact, because these were people that I respected and loved and admired and on every call, I didn’t know if they were going to stand by me, frankly, at the beginning of this process. I thought people would shut me and I would lose my reputation and people would stop believing in me and kind of cast me aside, and I took that risk.

I knew that I had to have this really important conversation with people and, and own up to it. What I found was that people are very forgiving of our humanity, of the fact that I made some bad decisions and owned it. And I think that because I took accountability for my bad decisions and for doing some things, people stood by me, and I’m blessed to have unconditional support by so many in my community and, you know, honestly across the world and as I’ve been speaking with lots of corporations, leadership teams, organizations, and universities, this concept of the courageous conversation and creating a space for that is not easy.

I think leadership teams are faced with a lot of struggle and decisions and conflicts and pressure, right? There’s pressure to meet competition and be able to rise at that level. And sometimes corners get cut because you’re trying to meet with and compete. But when you can own it and recognize that that’s what’s happening and you recognize that blind spot, it’s a lot easier to come and say, okay, I know this is happening. Let’s have a real conversation with my team about how do we not cut corners? How do we not make bad decisions and commit to doing the right thing? And recognizing that we have these challenges we have to keep up. We want to still be able to target our market. All of those things are incredibly important and obviously vital to the long term sustainability of the corporation.

But when you create that space, which I believe requires a commitment to ongoing conversation about what this means, right? So ethics, compliance, decision making, it’s not something that’s happening once a year. It’s not a conversation that, that is sort of siloed into one specific time in one specific place to be held within specific individuals once a year, even once a month, this is something that takes daily commitment and conversation, which means that leaders, all of our teams have to be able to, by recognize that at any time on any day, if there’s an issue that comes up, there should be a safe space that we have created within our amongst and around ourselves, to be able to start a hard conversation, a real conversation, a hard conversation, courageous because when somebody can come forward and be vulnerable and say, look, I’m having a hard time with this decision. My supervisor is asking me to do something. It doesn’t quite feel right. All of those things takes first, the ability to know, and the, and the confidence that within your organizations, you guys have your created, we have created safe spaces.

I think that this holds true in our families, our families, we have to be really committed to letting our children know that there is an environment of recognition that at least I, as a mom, I tell my kids, I don’t expect perfection from you. And for me, this is odd because I absolutely expected perfection from myself as a child. And, and I’m trying to be good and better about not putting that on my kids. I want them to know that they’re going to fail and they’re going to be able to come back from it. Yes, there will be consequences, right.

But they will come back from it. And I want them to own it and come forward and have a conversation with me or their dad about what’s happened because I want them to know that the only way to learn and to keep growing is frankly, by failing, by making some bad decisions. That’s kind of what life is about.

I think in our personal lives and our community lives this holds true as well. So if you sit on corporate boards or community boards, these, these decisions that are being made are oftentimes really challenging. And there is sometimes no right and wrong answer. There is sort of this gray line, the area around the ethical line, right? And then that takes conversation that takes the ability to come forward and say, these are hard decisions to make. Let’s talk about it together. Let’s think about what the consequences were going to be. And then we can try to figure out, all right, let’s make the best conscious decision that we can, where we might lose something, because that’s just part of the, the nature of some decisions that have to get me.

In conclusion, I recommend creating the space for courageous conversations for that vulnerability by taking accountability, not only within our organizations and corporations, but also our homes. Try to, I try to bring it home into my family every single day.

Rashmi Airan‘s mission is to help organizations create cultures focused on integrity, authenticity, and accountability by connecting these efforts to human performance, behavioral ethics and emotional intelligence.  Rashmi is a keynote speaker and consultant specializing in organizational culture, reputational risk, and human performance. Contact Rashmi to see how she can help your organization.

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