Collaborative Intelligence


In this article we offer some useful tips and guidance on courageous conversations, including how to know when to have one, how to raise it, and how to get the most out of it.

The alternative to having a courageous conversation is to tread the path of least resistance, which involves ignoring or avoiding the subject altogether. Do not do this.

The chances are that if you’re reading this, you’ve already followed this route on a couple of occasions and you’re now ready to find out how to have a difficult and courageous conversation.

What are courageous conversations?

Courageous conversations are the difficult to broach subjects with those close to you at home with your spouse, at work with your colleagues, boss or HR representative, or even with a client.

They are the sort of conversations that can stir vivd emotions on either side, meaning that in order to handle them effectively at home or professionally at work, you’ll need to tread carefully, mindfully, and observe how the conversations develops throughout the discussion.

In order to mitigate risk, it’s worth considering the risks you’re taking simply by having the courageous conversation. You should consider the motivations of the other parties involved, and what may trigger certain reactions (although this is impossible to entirely predict) and how the conversation could, and should ideally, end.

This allows you to attempt to steer the conversation towards an ideal conclusion without traversing pain points or emotional triggers in someone else.

Given that the conversation isn’t going to be straightforward, it’s just as (if not more) important that you can keep your own emotions under wraps too.

One way to do this is to stick to the facts, because facts cannot be ignored or refuted. If your information is accurate, then by being prepared with accurate data, you can demonstrate that there IS a problem, without using unnecessary personal opinion or repetition.

Another great idea is to practice what you’re going to say beforehand, so it doesn’t come out in a blurry mix of awkward words, clouding the discussion from the very beginning.

Example courageous conversations

Try placing something in the blanks here:

When you ____ I feel ____ because _____. In the future I would like ______.

An example might be :
When you talk over me in meetings I don’t feel valued because I can’t say what I want to say in order to add value to the conversation. In the future I would like you to please refrain from talking over me, or if you feel it’s urgent, to ask me if I’m done so I can allow you to talk over me or not by choice.

Another example might be:
When you say derogatory things about minorities I feel awkward and embarrassed because I am friends with some people in those groups, and I would hate for them to know that I was with someone who spoke about them in that way. In the future I would like it if you could speak about people to me, as if my friend is stood next to me, so you can imagine how your words affect others.

You could use this format to ask your spouse to clean up after cooking, keep the garage tidy, come home from work earlier.

Who coined the term courageous conversations?

While it’s not clear who actually coined the term, it seems as though it’s become a popular way to dress up a ‘difficult conversation’. By having a courageous conversation rather than a difficult one, you’re more likely to validate your own motivations to raise a difficult subject.

In the most liberal age humanity has ever seen, we are in need of more gusto in combating the personalities that weigh us down. Whether it is a boss who always talks over you before you’re done with your point, a parent who expresses racist or homophobic views, or a workplace discussion on gender equality – these conversations are becoming more prevalent and important, and the courage to raise them is more readily available.

When should I have courageous conversations?

If the subject needs to be raised, and you can see a viable outcome.

Courageous conversations at work and in the workplace

If you are at work and you feel as though there are any of the following issues occurring – it might be worth raising the conversation about them today.

  • A failure to coach, educate or train staff
  • A failure to set clear business and personal goals
  • A failure to effectively delegate from management, or to allow delegation by any other members of staff
  • A failure to celebrate company successes or team achievements
  • An inflexible leadership style which seems incumbent

Courageous conversations pdf

Here is a link to an informative 4 page high quality pdf which will help you to prepare for and carry through a courageous conversation. Courageous conversations are referred to as ‘Fierce conversations’ at one point in this PDF, based on the book of the same name.

Courageous conversations training

Please consider contacting the We-Q founders about using a collaborative intelligence tool in your organisation. The tool will raise important discussions, and our guidance can walk you through having these discussions in a safe and progressive manner.

We also have a We-Q free sample to try with your team which is like a quick 360degree feedback survey, with an instant visual overview at the end.

Introduction to Teal (Self-Management)

The term teal was coined by Frederic Laloux in his 2014 book Reinventing Organisations, required reading for everyone here at We-Q!

If you’ve come to this page, your probably know about the book, and what teal means.

If not – first look at the simple graphic below.

The evolutionary breakthroughs in human collaboration - Frederic Laloux (2014)

The evolutionary breakthroughs in human collaboration – Frederic Laloux (2014)

Even though it might seem crazy, and feel so unknown to us, we are potentially on the cusp of a new breakthrough in human collaborative hierarchy.

Each of the key breakthroughs should be present in a teal organisation, that is they should be

  1. Self managing (as far as is practical or doable)
  2. An emphasis on wholeness (being fully one’s self)
  3. An emphasis on evolutionary purpose within the organisation

To show you real examples of teal organisations, take a look at the list below.

Global Teal Organisations

  • Sun Hydraulics – USA, UK, Germany, South Korea, China, India – manufacturer of valves and hydraulic manifolds (which regulate fluid flow between pumps and actuators in a hydraulic system)

Teal Organisations in the UK

  • We-Q – UK – A survey tool to prompt conversations in the directions of the key teal breakthroughs. Self management, wholeness and evolutionary purpose.
  • The John Lewis Partnership – Entirely worker-owned democratic organisation in the UK employing ~90,000 people. They consider themselves an ‘experiment in industrial democracy’

Teal Organisations in Europe

Teal Organisations in the USA

How does being a Teal organisation help a company?

Clients of these organisations can feel a difference in the way they deal with teal organisations. Recipients of the services provided by Buurtzorg’s neighbourhood nurses definitely feel the humanity in all the face-to-face interactions. They’re not a number or a statistic pushed for head offices’s productivity figures. They’re people, and they’re treated as such.

As for a ‘teal’ utility company, you’re likely not going to know that they’re self managing, whole, developing and adapting with a sense of evolutionary purpose. That’s because you just receive electricity through your outlets, rather than dealing with them frequently and personally. That being said, the staff will find their work more meaningful and satisfying, which should result in greater levels of service and going the extra mile for their customers.

Do some companies revert from Teal back to hierarchical models?

Yes, sadly.

An organisation which appoints a new CEO may move back a step in the way they’re organised, and they move to a ‘Green’ or ‘Orange’ means of hierarchy (see the graphic at the top of this page).

Frederic Laloux’s 2014 book covers a whirlwind history of human organisation, and a new paradigm in how organisations are organised and managed. It should be said that the book guides the reader to the natural conclusion that self-managing organisations are the new phenomenon, that may become the new normal.

Teal – the term given to these self-managed organisations, is an organisational state not in theory, but in practice with known examples of teal organisations.