Collaboration, innovation, high performance and sound decision-making all hinge on leaders’ ability to have difficult conversations and discuss honest feedback when it matters most. In organizations all over the world, these conversations are attempted or avoided every day.
Sheila’s humor, warmth and authenticity make an instant connection with C-suite executives, senior leaders and individual contributors alike. Described as a “rock star” by Duke Corporate Education, the world’s #1 custom education provider, Sheila has received rave reviews at Google and Pixar, Apple, IBM and Microsoft, NASA and the White House, HSBC and American Express, Novartis and Time Warner. Often rated the #1 speaker at conferences and executive education sessions, Sheila does more than inspire. Her work provides solid analytical frameworks and practical skills that enable attendees to put their learning to work immediately in their most important and valuable working relationships.
She is a 20-year member of the world-renowned Harvard Negotiation Project, a Harvard faculty member and co-author of two New York Times best sellers. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most is used by leaders, educators, families, coaches and diplomats all over the world. In the revolutionary Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, Sheila shows leaders how they can transform the culture of learning in their organization not by teaching managers how to give feedback more effectively, but by understanding the universal challenges of receiving feedback well.
High performance, collaboration and innovation rely on honest, continuous feedback. Yet every organization and every leader on earth struggles with performance feedback in one way or another. Honest feedback isn’t given, or if it is, it is met with defensiveness or demotivation. The usual solution—teaching managers how to give feedback more effectively—has failed to solve the problem. Sheila Heen turns conventional wisdom on its head and demonstrates why the smart money is on teaching leaders how to receive feedback well themselves and becoming role models for what they value and expect from those around them. Sheila’s warmth and authenticity helps even seasoned executives recognize their own (normal, human) triggered reactions to feedback: “that’s just wrong,” “who asked you?” or “I’m not the real problem here.” She offers practical advice for turning even unskilled, crazy-making feedback into genuine learning. And once you get leaders motivated and eager to learn—willing to engage with others to see their blind spots and look at their own areas for growth—you get a modeling effect that quickly catches fire.
Leaders, managers, colleagues and direct reports face difficult conversations every day, and as leaders become more senior, they spend more and more of their time tackling difficult conversations. These difficult conversations—conflicts between functions or geographies with key alliance partners or your biggest clients—are the complex messes that get kicked upstairs because no one below has clear answers. Handling these conversations efficiently is no longer just a good idea, it’s integral to the success of each leader, their division and ultimately, the entire organization. Failure comes at a high cost—conflicts that fester and consume energy, sap creativity and destroy teamwork.
Based on 20 years of work at the Harvard Negotiation Project, this session provides a framework for understanding why some of our most important conversations are so hard, examines the common mistakes we all make, and offers a step-by-step method for handling them with less anxiety and better results. Tailored to the day-to-day challenges leaders face, this session offers insight and strategies for looking beneath the surface to understand disagreement, increase accountability, and manage your own reactions when under stress.
Speaking up clearly and effectively is a critical skill for leaders and team members alike. When people can’t speak up to raise a concern or disagree with the decision in the meeting itself, you have to attend the meeting after the meeting to find out whether you have actual alignment or covert opposition. These all-too-common dynamics can compromise safety, divide teams, waste time and energy, result in poor decision-making or in decisions not being made at all.
And yet, even highly accomplished professionals struggle with the decision to speak up, to communicate decisions clearly or engage disagreement effectively. Meaningful improvement on this front must go beyond motivation, beyond the simple exhortation to “be assertive” or “encourage your team to speak their mind.” It must start by understanding why even confident, well-respected professionals hesitate. Smart leaders worry about creating tension, slowing progress, creating defensiveness, violating cultural norms, or being perceived as a troublemaker or not a team player. And what if they’re wrong about their concerns?
In this session, we examine four common roadblocks to our ability to speak up and offer a menu of options to help each leader create an atmosphere where they and others speak up in ways that will be heard and move the conversations forward.