September 03, 2023


109. Mastering Tough Conversations

Hosted by

Brendan Rogers
109. Mastering Tough Conversations
Culture of Leadership
109. Mastering Tough Conversations

Sep 03 2023 | 00:45:39


Show Notes

Most leaders avoid having ‘tough conversations.’ If they were easy, everyone would be addressing challenging issues with people in their lives. In this episode, David Wood, founder of Focus CEO, shares his experiences with difficult conversations and how he turned them into opportunities for growth and connection. From a devastating childhood trauma that shut down his emotions, to relationships, to his later professional life, David had to get vulnerable and be okay with risking everything to approach many challenging interactions with confidence. The episode explores the power of 'eating the frog' first thing in the morning, using a 'cheat sheet', and role-playing as methods to handle these conversations. 

After life as a consulting actuary to Fortune 100 Companies, David built the world’s largest coaching business, becoming #1 on Google for “life coaching”. He believes the tough conversations we avoid are our doorways to confidence, success and even love -in both work and life. David coaches high performing entrepreneurs, executives and teams - and even prison inmates - to amazing results AND connection. One conversation at a time.

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Discussion Points

  • David’s lifelong trauma response due to a childhood tragedy
  • Coaching and the process of fixing your past traumas
  • Tools to approach difficult conversations
  • Confronting old bully through tough conversation
  • Tackling challenging tasks early in the day
  • Navigating difficult discussions in life
  • Using a 'cheat sheet' and role-playing for preparation
  • How difficult conversations can build trust and connection
  • The daunting nature of tough conversations and facing them
  • Earning back trust from an old girlfriend
  • Saying ‘I love you’ to his parents for the first time
  • Making difficult conversations more productive
  • Managing emotions when someone reacts negatively
  • The value of mastering difficult conversations.
  • 3 Key Takeaways: 
  1. Confident leaders address uncomfortable truths
  2. Confident leaders have the right tough conversation 
  3. Confident leaders practice their courage
Feel free to leave your feedback about the show



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Episode Transcript

David: There are certain results you might want to get like getting a promotion, getting a pay rise, or having someone stop doing that thing they're doing that's bugging you, that neighbor who's banging on the roof. Whatever it is, tough conversations can change your world and the world of people around you. I'm a fan. I'm a proponent. I know it's not easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. They wouldn't be tough. Brendan: Welcome to the Culture of Leadership. We have conversations that help you develop and become a more confident leader. Do you shy away from tough conversations? Most leaders do. In today’s episode, you’ll learn how to master tough conversations. You’ll learn how to decide what tough conversations are worth having, the number one skill to use to start the conversation, and how courage is key. Our guest, David Wood, is the Founder of Focus CEO. He believes the tough conversations we avoid are our doorways to confidence, success, and love. This is The Culture of Leadership podcast. I’m Brendan Rogers. Sit back and enjoy my conversation with David. David: No one wakes up and says, I want to have a tough conversation today. It's like going to the dentist. You do it when you have to. Yeah, I understand that. Brendan: What's your personal experience with tough conversations? Is there a personal story you can share with us around it? David: Yeah. It wasn't like something I said, I want to be a tough conversations coach, or even that I wanted to be a coach when I was a kid. I'm from near you in Australia, we've established that. I had a tragedy when I was about seven. My little sister died. We didn't know back then about the impact of such things, and I just went on with my life. But apparently, what happened is I shut down my emotional side. Apparently, that's a trauma response. You just feel less and you can get very cerebral, and that happened to me. I started coming to the top of my school, I got paid to go to college. In Australia, back then, it didn't even cost anything to go to university. I got paid on top of that by a company, came out with a job waiting for me, and then got transferred to Park Avenue, New York. I thought I was home and hosed, as we say. I haven't got to use that expression for a while. At the age of 25, I'm consulting for Ford, Sony Music, and Exxon on Park Avenue, but I wasn't happy. I was stressed and my marriage wasn't going well. Someone sent me to a personal growth course that I did not want to do because they all wore name tags, and they smile way too much. I'm like, I don't trust you people. I didn't even think it was possible to be that happy, but they were ready for me, and they cracked my cynicism. I realized I knew nothing about intimacy, emotional intelligence, vulnerability, authenticity, integrity, and leadership. I stuck around, even though they smiled way too much. I stuck around and I got my training with them. I couldn't help but coach people during the course because I don't want to be stuck. I'd say, oh, did you hear what the teacher said yesterday? Do you want to try that? I changed somebody's life overnight, and I got hooked. I'm like, wow, this woman's life is completely different because of the space I held for her. I thought, how do I do this stuff? I kept training with them, and finally they trained me as a coach. As part of it, I had to get coaching. There was a requirement. They kept on encouraging me to go and communicate anything that hadn't been communicated. I didn't want to do it, but they say, make a list of people that you don't like, make a list of people that you hate, make a list of people you feel betrayed by, that you resent. I'm like, there's no one. You think about it for five minutes and like, okay, that guy from high school. I wouldn't spit on him if he was on fire. That boss had to sue him. That wasn't good. I wouldn't want to see him. It turned out, there were people currently in my life and from my history that I'm just like, well, that's how it is, I'm never going to speak to them again. They kept on pushing me to work out what was incomplete, call those people, and complete it. Initially, I was like, no, not going to happen. Like the bully from high school. I said, I'm not calling him. But when I got coaching on it to find out why I was scared, that helped me move through it. Then I'd make the call terrified, and then get my mind blown by this guy who I was convinced was a jerk who just said, well, how can I help you or us move forward now? I'm like, wait a minute, do I have the right guy? Over and over and over again, I had conversations that most humans would never ever, ever have. I had a conversation that could have put me in jail, because I tracked someone down and apologized for something I'd done when I was younger that I could still be prosecuted for. I've confessed being unfaithful to my partner when I was 18. She broke up with me, of course, and I had to earn her trust back. I've done crazy conversations. But over and over and over again, my mind has been blown by what's possible. I realized I'm actually quite qualified to help someone have those conversations because I know how scary it is, and I know the magic that's available. Because I'm outside that person, I'm able to see the pieces in a way they may not see it. They're just like, no, I can't say that. I'm like, well, let's unpack it. Often, I'll do a roleplay and say, you be your boss, I'll be you, and I'll take a shot at it and see what we learned. At the end of it, I say, what did you learn? They're like, the energy of how I did it. They couldn't even imagine that I could be so positive. It's often the how, but then there are also some techniques of creeping like asking for consent and sharing what I'm nervous about. They're like, oh, wait, this is good, hang on, let me write this down. I finally put all into it as I wrote a book about this that I launched last year called Mouse in the Room, because we all know about the elephant. The elephant in the room, you see it, I see it, no one's saying anything. You should talk about the elephant in the room. Yes, for God's sake, do that. Many creatures in the room are much more subtle. It wasn't an elephant in the room with that guy from high school, because he didn't know anything about it. It was just an elephant for me, so I call those mice. It's your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences that people may have no clue of. You want to start naming those. I put it down into a cheat sheet, because people need a roadmap. It's too hard to say, just go and confess to your boss that you did something wrong, screwed up, and might get fired. It's too hard. You need a roadmap. I did a cheat sheet that anybody can print off, fill-in in five minutes, and it will help you decide if this is a mouse worth naming, if this is a conversation that you want to go and have. If you do, take the sheet with you. You don't have to suddenly master tough conversations overnight. No, take the sheet and say, I wrote some stuff down because I don't want to forget anything. Boom. One guy wrote to me and said, I'm a school principal, I've used this four times in a row, and I'm batting four for four. Four times in a row, it's been a really great result. I can't guarantee it. But if you use the roadmap, your chances are so much better, and then you get hooked. You're like wait, who else can I talk to you? What else can I clear up? What else can I apologize for? Who else can I maybe make their day a bit better by completing something that's incomplete for me and probably incomplete for them? I would like to have an army of people around the world who are trained in mouse naming, having tough conversations, armed with this cheat sheet, can go out, and connect deeper with the people in their lives. Brendan: On reflection, what was it that helped you do that process, some of those things you've just explained? There was a cynical part of that. I guarantee people listening and watching this on YouTube, there'll be some cynicism about that as well. What was that thing that really, you know what, this is something I need to do because it's part of the healing process, or whatever you were trying to achieve at that time? David: I just got goosebumps. I realized there was something my coach did with me when I was saying no. When I said no, I'm not calling that bully from high school. She said, why not? I said, because he's going to think I'm a complete idiot. And she said these magic words. She said, well, lead with that. You're afraid to call him, because you think he's going to think you're an idiot. That sounds like the truth for you, so start with that. I'd never even considered it. That's what the book's about, name the mouse, name what's happening. There's power in it. You read fantasy books and books about magic, there's always power in names. There's power in just saying what's true. I coached a client today who's a vice president at a company. He said, our stock price just dropped 40%. People are very upset because they got stock options. He said, how do I address this? We did a roleplay, and what came out of my mouth was naming the truth, naming what so, naming the mouse in the room, that now is actually an elephant because everyone knows about it. You know what, some of you are probably pretty upset. Some of you might be afraid because your retirement plan just disappeared. I don't blame you. I feel that too. My options got hit as well. Just the power of naming it. My coach gave me that gift. It allowed me to call that guy and say, I just got to tell you, I'm really nervous to make this call, because I'm so worried you're going to think I'm the biggest idiot in the world, because it's probably a stupid thing I'm doing. His reaction was curiosity. I chunk some vulnerability and he's like, oh, well, what do you got? What's going on? How can I help? That was incredible. I thought he wasn't a jerk. He's not, he's a really good guy. We got to talk about it. I didn't even need an apology. I just said, I'm letting go of this. I've been resenting you for years. I'm letting go, and I just thought I'd let you know. He became a friend that day. I actually went back to my hometown of Cessnock and saw him at a pub, because he was visiting his parents as well years later. Normally, I would have ignored him, but he invited me over to his table. We had a good chat. At midnight, when he invited some people back to their house, I was invited. Sitting next to him at 1:00 AM, pretty drunk, he leaned over and he said so no one else could hear, I don't think I would ever have the courage to make that phone call that you did. And I really admire that. This was a guy I thought would just think I'm an idiot. The lesson I got from that coach was, name what so, name what is. If you're nervous to call someone or to have a conversation, lead with that. Hey, I feel nervous to have this conversation. This cheat sheet will help you. It will say what are you afraid of. I'm worried you'll get angry, you'll get defensive, or I'm worried you'll judge me. Great, you can lead with that. However, I've decided that I'm willing to risk it because I want, and you insert a positive outcome. I want us to have a good working relationship, or to be quite honest, I'd like to sleep better. And this has been keeping me up at night. The tough conversations we haven't had are what gives us the stress and keep us up at night. It's horrible. I used to think, oh, that's other people. I'm the tough conversations guy. I don't have any of that until I do, until someone's complained about me, there's a client who's really unhappy, someone might go public with something that's embarrassing, or something's really high stakes is on the line. Now, all of a sudden, I'm just like everybody else, and I'm scared. I'm like, oh my God, how do I handle it? If I can remember, I'll go back to the cheat sheet. Fortunately, I've got a number of great coaches I can call upon and say, hey, help me with this. After 10 minutes, it's clear. It's clear the way forward and say, ah, okay. Just like with that coach who said, lead with that, that set me free. That set me free to make the call. I had another one. Last year, I was in an acting class, and someone had complained about me. They felt uncomfortable about me, and it was a woman. In this post-me-too movement, that's not a good look for a guy to have a woman complain about him and say that she doesn't feel comfortable. That's the thing that can spread. I'd been really trying to actually speak to that person to find out what was wrong and if there was something I could apologize for. I lost sleep over this. There was a complaint against me, and I could have complained and said, this person doesn't even talk to me, and I don't know what happened. Can you sort it out? But I didn't do it. When something does trigger us, it's horrible. That's when it's really good to have either this cheat sheet in your corner, or if the stakes are high enough, a coach. Or a therapist can help you get clear on it and give you a roadmap to go and make a big difference so you can sleep better. There are certain results you might want to get like getting a promotion, getting a pay rise, or having someone stopping doing that thing they're doing that's bugging you, that neighbor who's banging on the roof. Whatever it is, tough conversations can change your world and the world of people around you. I'm a fan. I'm a proponent. I know it's not easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. They wouldn't be tough. Brendan: Absolutely. Let me say this now and I just want to say something else so I don't forget this question. What is the tough part around these things? How do you set things up? Holding that for a minute and taking that point before around, the thing that came to mind was the whole eat the frog moment. It's get the toughest thing out early in that conversation, and the rest just flows easier. That really resonates, absolutely. What is the thing or the things that make tough conversations tough? What are people scared about, and why do they avoid these things? David: As people, I think our psyches are quite fragile, most of us. I think I'm going to say some things now that I haven't2 said before. You asked a question and stuff loads up in my brain. This is what's coming to me. Most of us are starved for approval. We're being told by society all the time, you're wrong, you're too fat, you're too thin, you're not smart enough, you whatever. On social media, we're trying to get approval. I know, I am often. Just approve of me. Look, am I doing it right? Yeah, you're doing it right. You nailed that. Yes. We want that. We're not always trained in how to get our needs met. If you say something to me that challenges my view of myself, I might get defensive. I might start going on the attack and get aggressive. People do this. How dare you say that? If you're around a fairly enlightened person who's done their work, hopefully they can realize what's happening and go, oh, I noticed I'm feeling something about that. But tell me more about it. I'm going to put that to the side, I want to hear everything you've got to say about your experience. Once you're done, maybe I'll share with you. We don't usually have that with people. If you go to someone and say, hey, I feel betrayed by something you did, you might be opening up a can of worms. If you say, I feel upset by something you did, or I think something you're doing is inappropriate, they might not be like, thank you so much for the feedback. We haven't been given a roadmap. If you just go in, and you just say, hey, David said on a podcast, I should be honest and have a tough conversation, so I want to tell you, you kind of smell. I feel really down when I'm around you, so I'm going to have to spend less time. No, I'm not saying that. There are ways to do it, but if you go and do it incorrectly, you might lose something. You might lose the relationship, you might lose some money. As I said earlier, I confessed to a crime once and I could have lost my freedom. It took me 20 years to get to a point where I was willing to lose my freedom for the opportunity to apologize. I'm not always that noble. Sometimes I'm not willing to risk what I'm going to lose. I used to think, well, I have to be honest about everything. When I was in Bali, and a government official showed up at the door and said, we understand you might have been subletting a room, and you can't do that in Bali, so we might need to put you in jail for a while while we negotiate a bribe, the noble thing I think might have been was to show up and say, yes, I did sublet a room. I'm willing to pay whatever fine, I'll pay a bribe if I need to, I'll be deported, and I'll take the consequences. That'd be noble. I don't want to go to jail. Particularly, I don't want to go to jail for subletting a villa. I don't want to be negotiating a bribe from within jail for an indefinite period of time, so I left the country. That was a conversation I chose not to have. A lawyer said if you can get your passport, just leave. Come back in three months, it'll all blow over. That seemed like a good idea. I'm not any more like you must have every tough conversation, and you must tell the truth all the time. When I would get to immigration in the US and they'd say, are you planning to work here in the US, no, sir. Even if I'm going to work on my laptop, I don't want to have that conversation. Or even if I might be hoping I might get some clients, I'm not going to do that. I can understand if people decide, I'm not going to tell my partner that I got drunk at a bar and I kiss somebody, because they might get really upset, I'm going to have to deal with that, and they might leave me. They might take the kids and the house. I can understand that. You have to make that decision. I have a moral viewpoint on it. Letting someone stay with you for 20 years based on incorrect information, I have a moral viewpoint. But as a coach, my job is to say, work out the upside of having this conversation because often, we won't even see the upside. We just go, no, that's a bad idea. The upside could be, for the first person whose life I changed, her husband had an affair 10 years earlier, and she'd been holding him under the thumb. She'd been using that to manipulate him and control him for 10 years. As we kept talking, I discovered that someone else had an affair 10 years earlier. She did, but she hadn't told him that piece. As I helped coach her and helped her map this out, she saw the possibility of coming clean and risking her marriage for the upside of being honest, actually being truly connected for the first time in 10 years, and allowing him to have his reactions, his emotions, his feelings, and the respect of him being able to choose based on complete information if he wants to stick around. She came back from a weekend away with him. The two of them were floating on air six feet above the ground is how they felt, in love for the first time in 10 years. You're not always going to get that, but the form will help you assess the upside, assess the downside. And then you can decide if that's a bet you're willing to take. Nine times out of 10, in my experience, maybe eight or nine, it's worth it, to take the risk to share the truth and let the chips fall where they're going to fall, and then you see what's next. Eight, nine times out of 10. There are times when you might go, I don't care enough about my relationship with that person to do this. It may be something you only see once every three months. Maybe I don't care enough to invest the time. Or this person is a very bumpy person who tends to yell, that's aggressive, and might punch me in the face. Okay, you factor that in. But most of us have been way too timid in it, because we don't have the blueprint. Let's give them the link at the end of the show so they can go and download it. Print off 10 copies, and you won't even think you have tough conversations. You're like, I don't have any. But then you might wake up one morning and go, oh, that person I've been complaining about, that person I'm annoyed at. I wonder what I would say to them if I did follow this model. Go and fill in your sheet in five minutes. That'll help you decide, no, I'm not going to do that one. This one, yeah. And now I know how to do it, I got the sheet. You call them up and say, hey, can we talk? I want more of that. Hey, can we talk? I think it's not going to be easier in the short term because you got to have that 5-10 minutes of awkwardness until you find out it's probably not nearly as big a thing as you thought it was, but that's where the courage comes in. I want more people having more conversations. Some people's feathers will get ruffled because their illusion will be busted. Okay, then we see what's next. Brendan: It's that classic case of leading with vulnerability. Leading with vulnerability opens up more vulnerability down the space. They're great examples you've used in a personal situation for lots of people. I'm sure there's lots of people that will resonate with some of those scenarios. Is there ever a time in the workplace, where it's acceptable to not have the tough conversation? David: Yeah. Brendan: Tell us more. David: The first one that comes to mind is, hey, I'm really attracted to you, and I'd like to have sex with you. Brendan: Fair point. David: That might be your truth, but it's not necessarily going to serve the other person or the working relationship. Brendan: I know we connected earlier, but I had no idea you felt that way about me. David: You got the stubble, which I really like. You're wearing black. Brendan: It's a Cessnock look. David: Yeah, that's right. There might be things that you don't want to take. For example, that student in class, I learned a good lesson from that. I'm the tough conversations guy. I'm like, hey, something's off. Is there something I did? Can I apologize? In that situation, it made it worse, because that person did not have the tools to talk about it and did not want to. They just wanted to be left alone and never speak again. Okay, I learned a good lesson from that, that I did not have consent. I tried maybe two or three times over three months and then I'm like, okay. What I should have done is gone to HR. I should have gone to HR, which is the teacher and say, something doesn't seem right. I don't know what it is. I've tried to resolve it. I don't know. If you can find out if there's anything I can do to make things better because it seems really awkward right now, I would have been in the clear, because I'd gone, said there's an issue, and I don't know how to handle it. I would have been in the clear, versus now I'm the guy that just didn't back off and know when to leave someone alone. You might want to use HR as some backing for certain things at work. I'm sure there are a dozen other examples. Again, if it's someone who's peripheral, suppose someone smells a smoke, but you only see him once a month, maybe you don't need to have the conversation about hey, stinky smoke. You don't need a good relationship with someone to have a conversation to ask for permission, but how invested are you in the person? I think I have a checklist in the book to work it out. Is this something worth having? But you should at least do the sheet. At least do the worksheet to work out, oh, this is how I feel about it. This would be the upside of having this conversation. This would be the downside. Is there a request I can make? That's a leadership move. Make a request, don't just complain. Hey, this isn't really working for me. Would you be willing to do this? It's all there in the one pager. At the end of it all, you want to check in with them. Hey, how is it for you to have this conversation? Is it weird, awkward, inspiring, something else? Is there anything you want to share? I want to hear anything you got. There are plenty of conversations, not just at work. The upside may not justify the downside. Just like I said, when I was 18, I was in my first serious relationship, I got drunk at a party, and I had sex with someone else. I woke up feeling like the worst person on the planet, and I was. I could have decided I'm just not going to ever stray again, I'm not going to tell her, I'm not going to have that conversation, maybe lived under the illusion of bliss. I could have done that. Even before the coaching, before the personal growth, I could not live like that. I can't have a huge withhold from someone I'm going to live with. I can't do it. I don't know how anybody can. It's not a relationship. I didn't have the form. But if I did, I would put it down and say, well, the downside is I could lose this relationship. The upside is we could relate from a base of honesty. I have a chance to make it up to her. She broke up with me. I did earn her trust back, I had to really crawl and grovel, and she believed I'd learned my lesson. I tell you what, Brendan, I was 18 then, I'm 54 now. I cannot think of one instance, where I've broken a fidelity agreement with any partner since. I really did learn my lesson. Had I'd stayed quiet about it, maybe I couldn't have really learned that lesson because I had to feel like shit. I never ever want to feel like that again. There have been situations where, well, let's go there. We're both Aussies. I once had a situation, where my girlfriend found a pair of panties in my closet. She's like, whose panties are these? I looked at her, I'm like, I have no earthly idea whose they are or how they got in my closet, and that was the truth. And her friends said, how can you possibly believe him? Seriously, if that happens and they say no, I haven't broken any agreements, you're not going to believe them. But she said, trust me. If there was something to tell, I would know because I know who he is. We had that trust. I worked it out a month later. Six months earlier, when my cousin had come to stay, she'd used my room, and she had a girlfriend stealing whatever, it had to be from them. If I'd broken an agreement, I would have told her, and she knew that. That's what's possible. There's one of the things that's possible. If you're willing to reveal, and you're willing to take your lumps when they do, do you build trust? Mark Manson says, the more you try and get people to like you, the less they will. People need a little friction to trust you. I forget what started me down this route. I was going to say, it's not always worth it. You might decide, no, I'm not going to do it. But if you do go there, I really think magic is possible, which was leading me to end up marrying that woman. She broke up with me, I had to earn her trust back. We went through a lot of ups and downs. I think she proposed to me. We did get married. We're no longer married, but I still consider her family. Recently, I stayed with her and her new husband, and her son calls me uncle David. I risked the relationship. I risked everything to tell the truth. That idea makes me happy. It's not easy, but it's noble. And those are the people I want to be friends with. Those are the leaders I want to follow, the ones who are willing to risk things to tell the truth. Brendan: It's exactly right. What makes you different to most? Most is a big claim, but we'd have to say that based on general leadership standards in the world, it's probably fair to say most don't go down that path. We're even just talking about the workplace. Most don't have those tough conversations. The tough conversations you're talking about is on a whole other level on a personal side, in my view. What makes you different? What makes you able to do this? David: I think I've been blessed with such good coaches. When I first did that course, I was like, I don't know about this stuff. But then I did the second one, and I saw what was possible. My heart was cracked open, and I just saw people transforming. I'm like, this is real. I'm a cynical guy from Cessnock, Australia, but this is real, what's happening here. They showed me a new way of being. Once you get a little taste of that, you don't ever want to go back to the other way of living. I started bringing it into my family. Brendan: It's almost like a healthy drug, isn't it? David: Yeah. One of the toughest conversations I ever had, I realized by being around all these people in this personal growth that I'd never said I love you to my parents. We didn't do that in our family. Oh, my God, the terror in me. Calling my mother from the US and saying, look, there's something I've never said to you, and I just want to say it out loud. I love you. That was terrifying. It's a horrible experience, but that started to ripple out in my family. I think two weeks later, I said something and she said, I wish you wouldn't turn over these stones. What do you mean? She said, well, I got thinking how you said I love you, and I realized I never told my mother. She drove five hours to Forbes, for you Aussies, with the intention of saying to my grandmother, I love you. The first day, she thought, it's too early, we'll just settle in. The second day, she thought, she's too busy right now. The third day, she thought, she knows. Then it came to the last day, and she got in the car, turn the engine, she's ready to leave, and she thought, she's 85, you may not get another chance. She got misty just thinking about it. She turned off the engine, got out of the car, walked down the path and said, there's something I forgot to tell you. I love you. You never know if you start down this path, and you start practicing your courage and taking on the tools that you're learning from podcasts like this, and you take a risk to be human with another human being. You have no idea how that can ripple out to the rest of your staff, your peers, your bosses. They might think you're weird at first, and you might blow some of these conversations. Great. I salute you for taking the risk to try it out. Maybe you'll blow some, but it does get easier. What happens, as it gets easier and you get better at it, you'll just take on bigger conversations. It never really gets easier. You take on the harder ones and the harder ones, and you become a better and better leader. The only thing that makes me different, I think, is that I went down the personal growth rabbit hole because—this is a long way of me getting around to answering your question—I wanted what they had to offer. They had a connection and an inspiration that I didn't have, so I wanted to keep training and finding out what they had. I've been blessed with such beautiful connection because of that and because of the courageous relating. That's not a bad title for someone's business. Courageous relating. That's all that makes me different. I just kept on drinking the Kool Aid, I kept on doing it, and I was that committed. Once you do it enough, it'll become an integrity issue when you're not doing it. I didn't know what that meant. If you go and look up, they said if you do the third course, you will be expressed in every area of your life and where you are not, it will be an integrity issue for you. What the hell does that mean? I had no clue what that meant. I'm going to try and translate it. If you're out of integrity with yourself after you've done enough training—I just said after, because I've been practicing my American accent here for a while—after you've done enough training, it'll feel off in your body. It just won't feel right. You'll be like, I got to handle this. I got to have a conversation with a person and get it sorted out, because I want to live fully expressed in my life. They made that promise. I'm like, yeah, whatever, I'm just going to do the course because I want to be a coach. But they were right. When I'm out of integrity, it feels off and it feels icky. I've got enough people who can point me back. Sometimes it's my coach that will help me get back into integrity, which feels really good and makes us a great leader. Brendan: In the world you play in, even outside of that more broadly, do you find that people are, it's not that they don't want to have some of these tough conversations either in life or in the workplace, they just don't know how? They haven't got the tools, techniques. Again, you've mentioned the one page. We always put links to this stuff in our descriptions in show notes. Can you talk to that a little bit? David: Yeah, the first barrier is we don't know what tough conversations are. We don't know what they are, the mind will hide them. The mind just goes, that's a bad idea. If you read Mouse in the Room, it's an easy read. It's 100 pages. If you read Mouse in the Room, one of the benefits is it'll trigger ideas. You'll be like, oh, that sounds like Jenny. Okay, I'll add that to my list. It'll trigger ideas, so at least you've got your list of possibles. The second thing that stops us is the fear of loss. You have to write that down, get clear on that. The third thing that stops us is we have not generated the upside. We just see the bad side, we haven't generated the upside. You might just need a form to ask you, what good could come out of this conversation? Generate it. That'll inspire you to maybe weather the downside. I like to list things because I'm a nerd. The fourth thing is not having a roadmap. If you go and do it badly, you can be worse off than when you started. For example, here are some some pitfalls. Not asking for consent. I had a friend of mine, I woke up to this text message a couple of weeks ago, which was basically a list of here are four things you did wrong that you shouldn't have done, if that's the real you, then I don't want to be friends with you. That text isn't going to go over well with 99.5% of the population. I'm an expert communicator, and I hated getting that. It felt really lousy. There was no consent. Hey, can I share something that didn't work for me? Are you open to it? Had I said yes, I'm now in a much better frame of mind to like, okay, let me hear what you got. Judging people and telling them they did something wrong, that usually doesn't go over very well. Much better to use I statements. As soon as you say you did this, you did that, or this isn’t appropriate, you're asking for an argument, because they might have a different point of view. But if you speak about your experience, that's like a magic way of speaking because it's inarguable. They might try to argue with that, but it's just funny. When you did that I felt embarrassed. I understand your viewpoint about what I should feel, and yet this is what happened. Can I have another minute just to get this out? It's just funny when someone tries to argue with your own experience. This is my experience. Using I statements, when you did X, I felt Y usually goes over better. Asking for some space, it might take me a couple of minutes to get this out, and I might fumble it. It's not going to be perfect, and I'm a little nervous about it. Can you just? Oh, yeah. Go for it. There is some things you can do using the roadmap that will make it a lot easier and a lot more chance at the person's going to listen to you. I didn't like it. It didn't feel good for me. And I wonder if you'd be willing to do this next time. Would that work for you? I once had a landlord who moved in downstairs. It was his house, but he moved back in downstairs, and would open the adjoining door to my apartment, come in, and use the storeroom whenever he wanted to. It drove me bonkers. My nervous system's jumpy. I asked him if he'd change it. He said, look, I'm not asking you, I'm just telling you this is how it's going to be. I had to use everything I had, the consent. I got his world first. We connected, we built rapport, and then I was vulnerable. I shared the impact on me and then said, is there any way you could see your way clear to giving me 24 hours notice so that my nervous system can relax and I can sleep again? He said, Yeah, all right. That guy went from an enemy, who I had called the police on–You guys are getting the ins and outs. The nitty gritty of my life isn't always smooth– to an ally, who was trying to help me, and I started carrying his groceries and whatever. The magic we see in movies is absolutely possible. Whoever seems like an absolute enemy to you, I would almost guarantee, you have not tried the 10 steps that might convert them into an ally before you write them off. There's a lot you can do. Brendan: Yeah, absolutely. It's that connection piece, isn't it? I guess where it takes them on to is the controlling of emotions. You mentioned this earlier in the show as well. Can I say it's probably fair to say, people have varying degrees of emotional intelligence? When you're in the tough conversation, how do you handle situations that will inevitably come up, where people are really reacting to some of the information you might be sharing, even if you followed various of these steps or all 10 steps? David: Yeah, some people are going to get bumpy. They might yell, and they might get upset. Sometimes I recommend asking if they can give me a minute or two. Or my clients will ask, can you give me a minute or two to get this out, and then I want to hear anything you've got to say? It doesn't really matter who goes first. All that matters is that you take turns. Think back to any fight you've had in your life. You're not taking turns. You're trying to be heard while the other person is trying to be heard. If they can't do that and give you their time, even if they say yes, but then they keep interrupting, a ninja move and it's listed as a pro tip on the form, say, you know what, it seems like maybe you've got some charge on this, why don't you go first? I'll just listen to everything you've got to say. When you're done, maybe I can share what I've got. Tell me more about that. You give them a shot. It might take one minute, two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes. But eventually, it might be like, have I heard everything? Is there anything that I haven't heard yet? No. Okay, got it. Thank you for sharing that. I think I understand now. Can I tell you now, my side? Often, once they've been heard, now you can go. Remember, it doesn't matter who goes first. It just matters that there's an agreement on whose turn it is, and you take turns. I even thought of an app today while jogging, that would have a timer on each end of the phone, you press it, you have one minute to go, and then you can double down and claim a second minute. But after that, it's the other person's turn. They get a minute, they can claim a second minute, and you go back and forth. Game changer. Brendan: It's like the chess move. Your turn, your turn. David: It's exactly like that. Because you just got to take turns on a simple app like that, I might even write the code for it because I'm a nerd. Brendan: I know we are short of time and you've got to go very, very soon. The last question I always like to end with is, and I think it's very practical and relevant based on what we're talking about, but what has helped you become this more confident leader? David: I'm not always confident, and that's part of the trick. I'm not always confident. But sometimes when I'm not confident, I'll say that, and the truth will set you free. Hey, this is new for me. I'm practicing. If you see any way I can do it better, let me know. Now I'm free to go make mistakes. It's naming the mouse. It's naming what's true. You can't blow it. You get up on stage and you're nervous, you guys are pretty scary. Would you take a deep breath with me so I can settle, because I got some really good stuff for you? Naming the truth is the secret weapon. A lot of my coaching, how do I solve this? Tell me what the truth is. That's the truth, go there. What's the truth there? What would you say to a person if they would listen to you? That? Okay, great. Let's do that. I think that's what gives me confidence, and also having very few secrets. Very few things that can bite me in the butt, because I want to address them head on and take my lumps. It just leads to a lot of confidence, because you handle that instead of all the skeletons waiting to jump out at you. Brendan: Isn't it always the way? Simple advice is always powerful and impactful. David: It's not always comfortable, but it does get easier. Brendan: Absolutely. What's your offer? Is that water or gin? David: This is water with some supplements in it. Brendan: Nice. David: Yeah, I squeezed in a jog before this exercise. Brendan: Good on you. It sounds like we both do the same thing. David: Yeah, perfect. If you're listening to this and you're interested in coaching, I coach two groups of people. I coach business owners, and I coach managers and executives that don't own their own business. But if there's something in here that resonated with you and you're like, hey, I want to do better, I want to be a better leader. I want to handle conflicts at work, I want to systematize, I want to delegate, I want to do all the stuff that executives do before you go up a level, the way I've been working for the last 15-20 years is just a flat rate. It costs $20,000 for the year or $2000 a month to work with me. What I have gotten present to, particularly since the pandemic, not everybody can afford that. I've allocated five coaching spots for people who may not be at the level with their salary or their business revenue to afford $2000 a month for a coach. I'm introducing a sliding scale that'll go from $300 a month up to $2000 depending on where you're at. If you're interested in taking advantage of that, go to It's not dot-com. I actually got the CEO domain, so Click on apply for coaching. It doesn't commit me or you to anything. It's just to explore if it's a fit. Mention in the comments when you do the intake form ,which takes like five or 10 minutes–it's awesome, it will really give us good information about your life–mention Sliding Scale and The Culture of Leadership, so I know that it came from an offer I made for you guys. We'll have a call. If it seems like we're a fit, we'll work out a rate that may not be what was my fixed rate, but something that feels like a win for you. That's my offer, Brendan: Awesome, mate. Thank you very much for that. We'll, again, put that into our notes and make it very, very accessible for people. Again, just a massive thank you for coming on to our show. Great to connect. Great to talk to a fellow Aussie as well. I've done a fair bit of research on you before the interview like I do for all of our guests. I know that Aussie accent anyway. I didn't know you came from Cessnock, so it's even closer to what I thought. It's always good to connect with fellow Aussies. Well done on what you're doing. Keep doing all this great work and thanks again, buddy. It's been a pleasure chatting. David: Thank you. I appreciate you. Brendan: My pleasure. Few actions cause leaders more anxiety than having tough conversations. This means, getting good at them will set you apart from most. These were my 3 key takeaways from my conversation with David. My first key takeaway, Confident leaders address uncomfortable truths. The fear of being perceived negatively often holds leaders back, but a productive approach is to acknowledge this concern upfront. By naming the truth and putting it out there, leaders set the stage for empathy and understanding. My second key takeaway, Confident leaders have the right tough conversation. To do this, you have to decide what value there is in having the tough conversation. By weighing up the potential benefits against the possible drawbacks, you can make informed choices. Embracing risk to openly communicate the truth, regardless of potential consequences, is a fundamental step. My third key takeaway, Confident leaders practice their courage. Taking the risk to be vulnerable creates a ripple effect of trust. This creates connection and inspiration. The courageous approach becomes natural, leading to a sense of integrity that makes any deviation from it feel out of place. In summary, my three key takeaways were, Confident leaders address uncomfortable truths, Confident leaders have the right tough conversation, and Confident leaders practice their courage. Let me know your key takeaway on YouTube or at Thanks for joining me. Remember, the best outcome is on the other side of a genuine conversation. Thanks for listening to The Culture of Leadership. You can access the show notes at If you enjoyed the show, please follow, write and give a review on your favorite podcast platform.

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