EPMEPM: First PersonEPM: Leadership

Fiona Blayney: How to Handle Tough Conversations and Decisions Like a Hero

Tough decisions and difficult conversations: at times like these you need to find your inner superhero and put on your big girl pants, says Fiona Blayney.

I’ve never really been a fan of big girl pants. I’ve never found mine a natural fit and as such, if I’m honest, I still find them pretty uncomfortable. I don’t remember the first time I tried my pair on, or what brought me to need to find them, but I know from that day it pains me to get them out and don them for all to see.

Am I alone here? Surely, I am not the only one who has come to realise over the years that one of the greatest lessons as a leader, which has also become one of my most important roles in my business, is the importance of being able to put on those big girl pants and make the hard decisions, followed by the hard conversation.

Over the past few weeks the big girl pants have had quite the workout; strategic, financial and human resource-related decisions have inevitably led to some less than enjoyable conversations in my world. So, despite their discomfort, ultimately, I’ve been grateful that I had the pants on standby.

Despite the perception of most employees, the average business owner feels the same way about big girl and big boy pants as I do. I have many a conversation with peers and clients around the decisions that need to be made in a business, only to spend the greatest amount of time workshopping how to have that final conversation.

No one wants to intentionally hurt someone else; well, no one they’re friends with. What I have learnt is that, like everything in life, eventually the pants must be put on, the conversation had and the fallout managed.

Of course, as a business owner it’s pretty damn lonely at the top, and with many of these decisions relating to people with feelings, over the years I have come up with a few rules to help keep me on message. Here are a couple for some pant-wearing guidance.

Primarily my mantle is to be able to lay straight in bed. It’s an oldie but a goodie; in essence, it’s about intent. I’ve got a strong moral code, and I’ve worked hard to ensure that I can look in the mirror and be happy with the person I see staring back at me, that I am not setting out to do someone harm. So far I am satisfied that the scorecard is sitting favourably, although that lady in the mirror is starting to look older by the minute!

I’ve developed my own style of hard conversations. It’s not perfect, and perhaps if it was harder and faster the bank balance would be bigger, but it’s kept within my values of Transparency and Quality Relationships. It doesn’t mean that it’s soft, or wishy-washy; it simply means that I’m aware that this person sitting in front of me is multi-dimensional, and our conversation has a flow-on effect. As the conversations escalate, it’s my job to keep the pants tight and reach the originating outcome, despite what can often be tears.

Adults are more aware of what is going on in your business than you may give them credit for, and as such they watch the business activity and resultant leader behaviours with great intent. Your team understand decisions take time to be made, but take too long and you’re sending them a different message. It’s a fine balance with being hasty, but the team are counting on you to ensure you act for the greater good of the business.

The team are counting on you to ensure you act for the greater good of the business.

The next time you see the writing on the wall, and you are avoiding making that tough decision, bring out the superhero leader in you and don those big pants. They have magic powers, for no matter what happens, like everything in life, this too shall pass.

PS. The team actually love seeing your VPL (visible panty line); it’s one of the reasons that they follow you.

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Fiona Blayney

Fiona Blayney is the founder and director of Real+, an industry first Property Management learning platform. For more info visit realplusonline.com.au.