The Courageous Conversation: Downloads from My Tour with David Whyte — Part Two


The following is part two in a series of posts that are inspired by my conversations and deep listening with celebrated poet, author, and business consultant, David Whyte. I had the privilege of accompanying him and some hearty travelers on one of his tours through the countryside of West Ireland to experience the magic, poetry, and wisdom of the ancient Celtic culture and beyond.

The crackling from the fireplace was in full roar as the waves of warmth started to permeate the old Irish cottage. The lack of insulation was made up for by the huddled bodies crowded into the space, waiting for the rich, baritone voice of David Whyte, our host and guide of the wild countryside of West Ireland and County Clare, to set the tone for the day.

That particular morning, he challenged the heart of everyone in the room, toward an alignment with one’s deepest purpose and fulfillment.

He asked us through his captivating Irish accent: “Are you having the conversation that you were made for?”

This got me thinking straight away and something that I have often repeated to business owners and managers when coaching, consulting, or training their teams.

Are you having the conversations in your life that you were literally designed for? The ones that break the conventional mold? The ones that risk a level of realness and authenticity that challenge the status quo of your business culture?

In fact, think about this in your business environment right now.

Are you having the conversation that is most aligned with what you believe in? Especially when it goes against the grain and group-think? What conversation are you having with your staff, customers, investors, and stakeholders?

Whether you lead a business, a team, a project, administration, a family, or any mission big or small, what is the quality of the conversation that you are having with those around you? And is it the conversation that you were made for?

And as David reminds us all, the only doorway into the conversation that you were made for, is through having the courageous conversation. And how do you know that it’s courageous? It’s usually the ones that you are afraid to have.

Think of all the energy it takes to avoid those conversations. Every day that partner, colleague, vendor or customer comes into your mind for that split-second, only to be pushed away for another day. What does it take to turn and face the discomfort that is waiting to be acknowledged?

I once had a client who called the things he avoided his ‘ugly frogs.’ Over time, it was becoming painfully obvious to both of us how much energy went into avoiding these frogs, and how this was hurting his business.

There was money owed that was not being collected upon which was causing major cash flow issues, there were sales opportunities that were not getting followed up on due to lack of confidence, and there were customers who were getting neglected from being served because of this owner’s level of overwhelm and unwillingness to confront the ugly frogs directly.

Eventually, the losses were outweighing his need to stay comfortable, and he was ready to make a change. He then dedicated two hours each Thursday afternoon to confront the ugly frogs. He poured a large cup of coffee and leaned-into the courageous conversations that he needed to have for the sake of his business. He was leading.

And soon enough, the ship turned around and the ugly frogs that were put-off for the two-hour block on Thursdays was reduced to thirty minutes. He was becoming the leader his business needed. And the results soon followed.

There are courageous conversations for all of us to confront. Each one of us has our own Achilles heel that is difficult for us to approach. Yet the more I listen to my intuition regarding the conversations that still need to be completed and muster the courage to take action, I grow as a result. And what once looked scary becomes another step and another victory toward a fuller and more embodied example of leadership.