Having tough conversations in dispersed work environments.

May 20, 2020
By Rowan Belchers

The ‘genius’ of Disney CEO Bob Iger and a learning opportunity to do them better.

In my view, Bob Iger is probably the most highly-regarded global CEO. I recently finished reading his autobiography, The ride of a lifetime.

In case you’re not aware of him, he is one of the few CEOs to have a (mostly) unblemished record as a leader, whilst also creating increasing value by way of seven separate billion-dollar-plus deals (Pixar and Lucas Films to name two of them).

Frankly, the book is a bit disappointing. It offers little by way of nuance and a lot by way of over-simplified ‘leadership tips’. However, there was one particularly useful takeaway: how he handled tough conversations.

His secret was that he always flew to meet the person in the flesh. This might sound obvious, but it meant getting on planes and flying very long distances – sometimes to China – in order to face the person himself. I am convinced that this was a primary factor behind his success in that it enabled him to get his many hyper-successful deals done.

To be clear, tough conversations aren’t always about firing someone or giving someone critical feedback.

They are also:

  • Conversations that have complexity to them
  • Conversations where the agenda isn’t clear or obvious
  • Conversations where personal feelings or reputation is involved
  • Conversations that do not guarantee an outcome or a decision taking place

Tough conversations push people to the edge and bring up fear-based responses. That’s why they go wrong: they take people to their ‘learning edge’ where they are operating beyond their comfort zone, giving rise to a host of sub-optimal behaviour patterns.

This is exacerbated even more in lockdown in that this strange experience amplifies everything – particularly because now (unlike Bob Iger) we can’t necessarily meet with someone face to face.  The reality is, while our situations might be different the fundamentals of leading a challenging conversation remain the same.

Lockstep (of which The CEO Project is a part) delivered a number of leadership-orientated Masterclasses over lockdown. The Masterclass on Having Tough Conversations in Tough Times was extremely well-received, to the point that we have decided to offer it again as some of you may have missed out.

This Masterclass is complimentary for you and will take place on Thursday, 28th May at 3pm-4.30pm. We are using Quicket as a registration platform so enter the following voucher code to secure your place.

Code: YourLeadershipMatters_Lockstep

If there is anyone else that you would like to share this learning opportunity with, please email karin@lockstep.co.za and she will provide you with an additional code.

Rowan Belchers

Rowan Belchers

Rowan Belchers is the founder and CEO of Lockstep, a business leadership consultancy. Lockstep works with CEO’s, executive teams and future leaders across the African continent, partnering with clients who seek customised leadership solutions. Rowan is a highly respected advisor to CEOs with over two decades’ experience in guiding businesses and their leaders towards reaching their fullest potential. Rowan leads The CEO Project, a Lockstep initiative.
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