Leadership Communication: The High Cost of Avoiding Uncomfortable Conversations in Business
What does healthy Leadership Communication look like and how can you become better at it?
In this Strategy and Leadership podcast episode, Anthony Taylor interviews Erin Marcus, founder and CEO of Conquer Your Business.
We learn about the importance of having uncomfortable conversations in the workplace.
When managers are unhappy with their team's performance but are uncomfortable having a conversation about it, it can lead to resentment and the firing of team members, which is expensive and does not solve the problem. Similarly, when team members are having issues with their superiors, but don't feel comfortable expressing themselves, they can become disengaged and eventually leave, which can harm both the employee and the company.
The key to having these difficult conversations is to start with the end goal in mind and to focus on what you want to achieve from the conversation. By taking ownership of our relationships and being proactive about having uncomfortable conversations, we can create better outcomes for everyone involved.
Leadership Communication: A Hard-Hitting Question all Leaders Need To Ask Themselves
As a leader, it's important to think about how your actions impact others. Ask yourself what it's like to be on the receiving end of your actions, and consider how making small changes might have a major impact on you and those around you.
Anthony Taylor 00:02
Hey there, folks. Welcome to this episode of the strategy and leadership podcast. My name is Anthony Taylor. And today I am joined by Erin Marcus was the founder and CEO of conquer your business. Aaron, how are you today?
Erin Marcus 00:16
I'm awesome and very excited about our conversation Hear
Anthony Taylor 00:19
Me too. One of the cool things about will a in our pre roll I've just loved like chatting with you. You've got a very unique background of experience that has led you to the consulting work that you do now. Why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about who you are, and then we'll fill in the blanks.
Erin Marcus 00:36
Awesome. Awesome. So the official current fancy worded paid to have someone helped me write it version is as founder and CEO of conquer business, I help entrepreneurs get the financial and emotional freedom they need to build a business and a life that are proud of the unofficial version is I finally figured out what my random nothing to do with each other extensive experience background came together to help people do. Isn't that how that works, right? If you get older, you find yourself like Oh, so this is why that all happened. And that's what that is. And I I say it starts with my upbringing in Chicago and to Chicago public schools in the 70s and 80s. And everything you're imagining about that is probably a little bit dead on. But I went to school with people from 22 different countries. And most people didn't speak English, and nobody had any money. And we just figured it out. And I think that's something as kids, you just figure out how to communicate with each other. And that shaped everything. People are just people celebrate the differences. Number one, the food that everyone brought to school for lunch was the most celebrated difference. And you just start there.
Anthony Taylor 01:54
Awesome. And then I presume you had a couple jobs careers in between that led that learning from public school onward.
Erin Marcus 02:03
Yes, a few jobs I worked at, at a hotdog stand that was made famous on the show Roseanne Darlene used to wear the fluky t shirt I have worked in Salukis hated every minute of that. But I was actually a journalist, I have a degree in journalism. So I wrote for three different papers while I was in college, which was amazing because I got more experienced interviewing people, I interviewed Mike Madigan, when he was still at the state level. I interviewed Paul Simon before he passed, which was an unbelievable, amazing politician of his time. And again, that interaction with people, I managed apartment buildings when I was 23 years old, I still can't figure out we thought it would be a great idea to give a 23 year old or billion dollar asset but okay, that's what I did back then. I ran a construction department. For a Real Estate Group, I used to be able to tell you how many BTUs a human put out. So if your conference room had nine people what size air conditioner did you need? I used to know that I don't remember it anymore.
Anthony Taylor 03:12
Okay. And, and so all of that experience, and more that you haven't mentioned yet has led you to a place where, you know, you help people be successful. You help them communicate, you help them, you know, take on what they want to take on. So why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about what you do. And then some of the kind of key learnings that you've learned about that along the way.
Erin Marcus 03:34
The communication that you've mentioned, has always been the key. So my best corporate experience where I spent most of my corporate life was in the long term care insurance industry. And basically, what I did was my official fancy side, I put together regional national relationships between insurance companies and the people who sold the insurance and we were in the middleman. Okay, great. But more personally, what I did was I taught financial planners, part of that was teaching financial planners, how to sell long term care insurance to their clients, and why it was important, which basically comes down to teaching financial service professionals how to sell a product they eat to people who don't want to talk about the problem. Okay. Great.
Anthony Taylor 04:23
Okay. And so, I mean, I'm trying to find the parallel to that, because there's the selling the stuff you hate, and then there's having those uncomfortable conversations.
Erin Marcus 04:33
That's exactly it. It's difficult conversations. The parallel the absolute, what I learned, was in that process, you know, we went really deep in marketing. I have an MBA Marketing Show, I was always like, what's the marketing here and when I left corporate and had my franchise, it was in that same arena. The main thing that I learned and I will tell you, this is about your health. It's about your relationships. It's about Your leadership, it's everything you can think of avoiding a difficult conversation doesn't make it not happen. It just means when it happens, it's going to be at the most inopportune time and you are going to have a lack of options on how to resolve the problem.
Anthony Taylor 05:18
Okay, tell me more,
Erin Marcus 05:21
you're looking at me like, I mean, if we want to put it in a corporate setting, right, if that's, that's where most people live, let's put it in the place of a job. If you're a manager, and you're unhappy with what your team is doing, but you're not comfortable, either you're not comfortable talking to them about it, or you don't know how to have a useful conversation that has the outcomes that you want, what happens, you get more and more and more resentful of somebody. And then they get and then you fire them. Well, that didn't solve the problem, that's about the most expensive way you can go about solving that problem. And the flip side is true as well, if you are a team member, in some capacity, we all are right, if you are a team member, and you're having issues with whatever's going on at levels above you, and you don't have a way to express that, what happens? First, you check out mentally, which means you're now a disengaged employee. So you're costing money not making money for the business, which is not anybody's job. And then eventually you leave and that can hurt the company. But it also could potentially hurt you. Yeah, nobody? It's absolutely, right.
Anthony Taylor 06:46
Well, it's interesting. I mean, I literally just got out of a meeting where, I mean, I get out of meetings all the time as a facilitator, you know, a lot of the problems that get created are because people aren't talking to each other people are not confronting what they want to because it's uncomfortable. And I tell people, it's like you pay now or you pay later, you always pay if there's something like that, and the kind of trajectory, it's not going to resolve itself unless you deal with it. So, you know, in mentoring people in supporting people, how do you support them and having those uncomfortable, you know, conversations, whether it's about work, whether it's about end of life care, whether it's about something, something else, you know, what are some of the key tenants to be able to have those uncomfortable conversations early, so that you they don't happen at the most inopportune time?
Erin Marcus 07:42
The thing I think, that throws most people and there's several, right, if we break it down a few different things, most people, difficult conversations, kind of like business plans, they have to be reverse engineered. They have to be reverse engineered. So I always start with, what do you want? What do you want? What are you trying to get out of the conversation? What's the end goal? Because most people live in reaction mode. Most people live hands down in reaction mode, something frustrates them, they react to it. They don't like something they react to it. And they don't stop to think well, what do I ultimately want? Because what I've learned the hard way, like you don't learn lessons the easy way, because otherwise they won't I mean, you just don't we were human humans are messy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it right. Like we don't learn lessons easy way. We learned lessons the hard way. And what I've learned the hard way is I can't control anybody else. I have zero influence, ultimately, over what anybody else does, I can only affect me. So if I want a certain outcome, or before you go reacting to a situation, if I can take a step back and say, Okay, what do I want to have happen? You I want the other person to apologize to me? Or do I just want them to knock it off and do what they need to do? Because one of those is all about my ego. And the other one is about an outcome that might be better for everybody.
Anthony Taylor 09:24
It's funny how those two get conflated because you, you can very easily blame the other person. But blaming the other person doesn't actually resolve that thing. In fact, it's anyone I recommended somebody was you know, just take the ownership yourself. And then you can actually say, What do I want to do about it?
Erin Marcus 09:42
Every time because here's the thing, the first time someone explained to me that I was responsible for every relationship I had, I was going through a divorce. And I was really, really sure. I was not responsible. Right? I mean, but It was true. How do I show up? What do I want? And am I thinking about that? Like, here's the thing, we're talking about leadership, we're talking about growing your business, we're talking about a career, you should not be doing those things in reaction mode. You should never be doing those things. So if I take a step back, I'll give you a more personal experience. I was at a family gathering a few months ago. And it was a difficult time for me because we moved my dog that I had had forever had just died, like the day before we moved. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. And I wanted to be there for part of it. But I also knew there was going to be people there that not my favorite people in the world. And I literally, I did this every day, I was there not once and done. But every day I was there. I was like, Okay, what do I want? Well, I want these X number of people to stop being jerks. And that's like mild right? To stop being jerks. Well, I can't have that. Because I have no control over that. All right. So right out of my negotiation class, what's the best alternative to a negotiated agreement? If I can't have what I want? What can I have? Well, I wanted my stepdad who's 90 years old, to be happy. It was his birthday. I wanted him to be happy, protect him. Okay, how could I affect that? All right, well, that meant and I literally wrote it out daily, because I had to get them out. I had to let things go, I had to forgive people for their faults, I had to not be so sensitive. You're right, I had a I wrote it all out. So that in the moment, I was no longer in reaction mode, I did what I call setting my stage, I set my stage by reminding myself what I actually wanted to have happen. And I did it every single day, because I was too tired. I knew I wasn't in my best place. So I did it every day that I was there, just to give myself a leg up on not opening my mouth the way that I might have been inclined to open my mouth otherwise. Gotta be intentional. No,
Anthony Taylor 12:10
I love that if I may, and just for everybody listening, like this. And really, I mean, it's obviously all good stuff. But some people look at communication and inner power as something really, really soft. And what I really liked about what you did, Aaron, as you compared it early on, to as if it was a business plan. Like it's, I use the word communication strategy, which is not the right words, but you're like I'm entering an environment that is harsh. In this case, you have
Erin Marcus 12:42
to be a lunatic.
Anthony Taylor 12:46
And fully okay to do that. But you said okay, like, what do I want as my outcome? What do I need to do to make that happen? You like mentally set yourself like you prepared like you would preparing for an interview, like you would prepare for, you know, certain situations. And I think it is a such a good reminder to all of us is that in your corporate setting, and your family setting and your brand setting, there are certain conversations that take a lot of you, and you can prepare for it. But the biggest thing I want to highlight is it's the intentionality that you brought with it, it was the focus, it was a strategy with the outcomes, that no matter what happened, you wouldn't be less prepared your ability to be prepared for that situation, supporting you and driving the outcome, which in this case, was helping a nine year old person, enjoy, you know, one of the most momentous days of their life. And you could have shown it and said, Rick, everybody, and I'm gonna you know, I'm entitled to my feelings. But instead you really stood for what was important to you. And I think that that's critical for a leader, critical for an employee, critical for teammate critical for a spouse to be able to support good relationships around you. So like, anything you want to say about that as well.
Erin Marcus 14:01
I think one of the things you just said was, I have the right to my feelings, and that's 100% True, but at the same time, at what cost or to what end? And I think too much, you know, when you're influenced too much about social media, I know my truth and all that. Well, yeah, great, because I don't know if you've caught on by now, but I am extremely directed. I have my opinions. Like there's no wobble in me. I know what I know. I know what I don't know. I'm not a hesitant person. I don't have room for a lot of nonsense that I don't agree with. But I also don't think I have any right at all to inflict my opinion on someone else. They have just as much right to their opinions and their feelings and their thoughts as I have to mine and I think that is where we miss the boat. I can have mine You can have yours. And what's unfortunate now is we see too much of people thinking that those two worlds can't live together. And there's times when you know, and we're not talking about the extremes, certain opinions are on, certain opinions are wrong, certain behaviors are wrong, certain activities are wrong, period hard stop no exceptions. But that's not the norm. Right? We're talking about normal conversations are in the frame of a normal, a normal framework a normal life?
Anthony Taylor 15:34
Yeah, absolutely. No, I think that's so critical. I think it's a, it's a lifelong lesson that people can take in. And it's, I'm sure, it's one of those lessons that you learn, again, the hard way, but it's been so impactful and rewarding. And that's why you still use it. Like I haven't even heard about it like that, of course, in different ways. Perfect. Everything in life was made up. So I'm glad that you made that went up. Let's continue along the path. Like if you say like, what are the things that, you know, you mentioned mentorship, and we talked before that you were there to mentor people, you know, in addition to kind of being a call it in control, for lack of a better word of your emotions, you know, what's something else that you think that leaders, you know, experienced or otherwise, could benefit from doing more of what would you recommend to them? Or would you advise that it brought you success in your in your life and career?
Erin Marcus 16:25
Alright, I wrote an article. So the backup for you second, the current business is called conquer your business. Before that, it was called conquer the conversation. So I was working on multigenerational communication interactions and things like that. What I learned very quickly was, I didn't want to be in the middle of everybody's difficult conversation for the rest of my life. So I switched gears, right, so I switch gears. However, during that time, one of the articles that I wrote for leaders, which was hard hitting and got some interesting response was ask yourself as a leader, this question, what is it like to be on the receiving end of you? What is it like like, and I'm gonna, let's be selfish for a minute, let's be massively manipulative and selfish. If you change your behavior, you get more of what you want. Don't even come from a good leadership. Altruistic yay, everybody, you can come at it from the exact other side. manipulative, selfish. I just want what I want. Okay, how do I what do I have to do to get what I want? What is it like to be on the receiving end of view? Does it get you what you want? I mean, it's so easy to look at what you believe and how you act, because all you have to do is look around you. And you see the results of what you believe in how you act. And if you don't like the what you have around you, you have to change what you believe. And you have to change how you act.
Anthony Taylor 18:14
Yeah, absolutely. How do you like no, that was a, you know, a general question for people to reflect on. You know, what is the method? When do you do that? Do you do it all the time? Do you do it? All the time? Okay. Biggest
Erin Marcus 18:31
like I debrief everything we I measure in debrief, like every time we have an event in my business, what worked, what didn't work, what worked? Well, every time I do any kind of strategic planning, what's working well, where's our room for improvement? And it's all a reflection on yourself. You can do that, if you just take a couple of minutes, like if you really want to excel. And here's the cool thing right now is you have several, I'll call it two or three, some, several, some generations, who haven't been taught communication as a leader. They just haven't I mean, this is not they're not bad for not knowing it. They weren't taught it. So if this, this is a skill that if you can develop, your career is going to skyrocket, because you're going to stand out. And if you take a couple of minutes before any meeting, whether it's a one on one meeting, whether it's a one on Monday meeting and say, Okay, what do I want to get out of this? Figure that out and say, Who do I need to be in order to create that outcome? And then take your three to five minutes as you grab your cup of coffee after meeting and grade yourself. Now, the most difficult conversation you can have is an honest conversation with yourself. So there's going to be some of that if you're delusional this doesn't work as well. But if you take a few minutes of honest reflection, and if you really want to get brave, ask somebody. Like, be prepared. If you've really want to get brave ask, how'd that go for you? Yeah?
Anthony Taylor 20:17
Well, I'm sure just like mine did my like stomach curled up into itself and hearing that, but I think it's probably a really good indicator that that's an exercise worth doing in order to really get at the depth of your leadership. So folks, as you're listening, if you want to really improve, and I tell people, you know, a senior leader 80% 90% of your leadership is communication. If you really want to improve yourself, you know, what's it like being on the other end of you, I love being selfish, because then you can really get to the heart of being effective, because effective and selfish just means you get what you want. And as a leader, you're only measured in efficacy. Aaron, as we wrap up here today, because I've just been so enjoying the conversation about what that like, that's what I want people to leave it on. Where can people connect with you, because I just, I want to leave them on a cliffhanger on that one. Because it's so good. Like, I just don't want to just like full point stop, like you're going to judge on you in the face. I think so because it's good. And it's just like, I don't want to lose it like, like, re listen to this. Check yourself, majorly. These two pieces on communication. I know you don't want to be owning in the middle of tough conversations, because that sucks, too. But everything in your life relates to the two principles that Aaron shared. If you want to be a better person, you want to be a better leader. It's so critical. So Aaron at leaving it, where can people connect with you to continue this conversation with you? Where can they learn more about you. And if there's anything else you want to say in closing, please, the floor is yours.
Erin Marcus 21:54
So it's really easy. The website is conquer your business.com. Everything you need is there we have our podcast is there so you can listen to tons of conversations as well conquer your business.com Something to leave people with. Every single thing you want, is on the other side of improving your ability to communicate with other humans. Like seriously.
Anthony Taylor 22:22
Right. Full stop. Love it. Aaron, thank you for chatting with me today. It's been such a pleasure. And yeah, I look forward to the next time. Awesome. Thank you so much. You're awesome. Folks. This has been the strategy and leadership podcast. My guest today has been Aaron Marcus was the founder and CEO of conquer your business. Everything you want in life is at the other end of your mouth, so long as you're using it well. And I think that's a great reminder, reminder for every single person. So be careful how you use it. Thanks for watching, and thanks for being here. Like subscribe, do all the things. My name is Anthony Taylor, and I'll see you next time.
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