Part 3: Misunderstandings about Candid Conversations


An excerpt from the upcoming book Candid Conversations – what and how

Part III

What is your relationship with the word ‘candid’?

This reminds me of the parallel conversation we could have about the word Coach, as in the kind of Coach that I am. People associate Coach with remedial. I need to improve my piano playing so I find and hire a competent piano Coach. Yup. So too with a golf Coach or quarterback Coach and the list goes on and on. There are two things that are massively different in these scenarios from the work that I do. Unfortunate choice of word to name my profession, but here we are.

The two things are that I do not, ever, tell my client what to do or make decisions for them, nothing like that. The other thing is that my job is not to ‘fix’ anything, especially not to fix the client, only to help them to see themselves more clearly so they can do better and be happier. I truly believe they are not broken, even if they think they are. What can easily flow out of these misunderstandings is that a person who may benefit greatly from working with a Coach, doesn’t hire one. I was once fired by a client who told me the reason was that I did not tell him what to do. Many expect, incorrectly, because of misunderstanding, that their Coach will list their flaws and tell them how to fix them. So too, organizations that could benefit greatly from the use of Candid Conversations, don’t, because of the misunderstandings with that word. In so many ways, Coach and Candid Conversations are close cousins.

How to break the near impasse? Let us be candid about this (do I dare use that word?). If a person is not ‘willing’ to at least explore and seek to better understand, Candid Conversations, not much of use will show up. (same with Coaching)

Willingness is the essential needed to progress change. When a person or an organization, is considering change, such as the very big change to adopt Candid Conversations, we really need to check for ‘willingness’. If we can’t find much of it the change initiative is doomed. Human nature. We hate change and will do significant things to keep things the same, even if things are actually quite bad. We do that.

Here are a few of the supposed attributes of a Candid Conversation, not all of them, but some of the most common misunderstandings.

  •  Candid is just a new way to package a disciplinary interaction
  •  Candid is about the person’s performance or rather, their lack of performance
  •  Candid is one way. The supervisor or boss does the talking
  •  Candid Conversations happen in a moment in time and then they are done
  •  Candid is about telling and fixing
  •  Candid is about an isolated part of the organization, usually the person receiving the candid comments
  •  More… ?

How many of these do you believe to be true, or at least partly true? None of them are true of an effective Candid Conversation of the form used, for instance, by Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, who brought that company back from the brink of bankruptcy and prior to that saved Boeing as head of their 787 Dreamliner project. None of these are elements of the Candid Conversation we all need to learn how to have.

The next section of this book addresses each of these common beliefs, offers a Candid Conversation alternative and demonstrates how the alternative works so much better. For the moment, let us consider the possibility that holding a Candid Conversation might be worth exploring. How willing are you to genuinely explore the underpinnings of a truly Candid Conversation?

End Part III of excerpt from the upcoming book Candid Conversations – what and how