Welcome to HARDtalk

-1I bet you all have a tough question you want to ask your boss. Something that will help explain why he or she is doing what they are doing and the reason behind their thinking. I would like to increase the stakes and say that the same question is on the lips of many of your colleagues. Often these questions lead to frantic water cooler discussions, gossip and rumors spreading around the office. And nobody is willing, or knows how, to ask the tough question, as the boss might take it negatively.

People trusting each other and willing to engage in tough conversations are the starting points for any team to move up the ladder of highly performing teams (ability to hold each other accountable, commitment on shared goals and focus on results are the other three). However, as the Chinese proverb says “Trust comes by foot and goes by Horse”.

To build an environment of trust you need a leader who is understanding and that has the inner strength to make him/herself vulnerable. It is only when you make yourself vulnerable and transparent, that you have conquered your worst fears.

Offering teams a helping hand on the journey of trusting each other and becoming a high performing team is one of my signature interventions. I can proudly say, I love doing it!

An intervention I sometimes use in these sessions is something I dubbed ‘HARDtalk’. Copied from the BBC series of the same name, I use the same approach; asking hard hitting questions to the person interviewed. The key in the interview is the first questions, which needs to be the toughest one, the one that everybody wants to know the answer for and the one that people gossip about.

The results are spectacular. As the audience gasp and hold their breath at the audacity for me to ask that question that everybody wants to ask but nobody dares to. Then, keep on digging deeper with follow up questions that don’t let the boss off the hook but forces him / her to explain why and address the consequences of his / her actions.

Not for the faint hearted bosses. And it only works if the boss understands that they need to open up first for the team to follow suit. When that magic happens and you allow people at the end of the interview identify, what they agree with, what surprised them in the interview and follow up questions they want to ask, you have started your journey of building trust in the team.

– Paul Keijzer

You may also like:
Shred The Form And Have A Quality Conversation Instead
Does Your Team Have A Clear Line of Sight?


5 thoughts on “Welcome to HARDtalk

  1. Very true… Paul.
    I am also itching to ask a tough question to my Boss – just waiting for the right moment (probably a new offer in the bag, to be on safe side).

  2. During my 3 jobs, I enjoyed the freedom of asking tough questions, honestly, credit of patience & understanding goes to the person (my bosses) and they responded on the issue very softly & took me on board as well. Unfortunately, at one place such question triggered disaster besides having very professional & open communication.
    I think it is mainly a matter of luck as one can not choose parents, teachers & bosses!!! what do you say?

    • Think you have done pretty well to have bosses that were upfront and open to answer questions. Of course some bosses will be more difficult to crack. Key is for your boss to feel safe and for him to know that you have his best intentions in mind. And the tougher the boss you more effort you have to put in to make him feel even more safe. Only when these two conditions are met an genuine conversation can take place. The best book on this topic is “Crucial Conversations” from Kerry Patterson. Enjoy the read.

  3. I guess this also is sort of dependent on the line of questioning as well Nasir. If the question is raised around prevailing business norms then the boss may take it up quite comfortably, however if our question is around the boss’ own decisions challenging his integrity or professionalism then we are in crucial conversation format.

  4. Dear Jehangir, I agree. But then the next question will be related to Bosses leadership capability also, he/she should be confident enough to listen & address the concerns of his team.

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