Difficult Conversations

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FountainBlue’s March 15 When She Speaks event was on the topic of ‘ Difficult Conversations – Bring Them On’.

We were fortunate to have such a diverse and powerful group of panelists who so succinctly and candidly shared their thoughts on how and why to conduct difficult conversations. It was also amazing to have such a strong showing of executives – male and female – representing a top-down, bottom-up support for diversity, inclusion and leadership from our host company!

We began by talking about why difficult conversations are needed, and how having a diverse population and an open leads to better business results.

But change takes time, and having those ‘difficult‘ conversations to facilitate necessary change is not an ‘easy‘ task, by definition. Below are some thoughts on how we can each find a comfortable way to have that difficult conversation:

  • There’s no magic formula for being confident and courageous. Each of our panelists had different backgrounds and upbringings, but we all had to overcome some kind of adversity at an early age. 
  • In the examples provided, it was often the case where others did nothing, yet the panelists chose to think, say or do that difficult thing. Sometimes that brought the desired result in short order. Often it did not. But regardless of the result, it was a learning and a step forward.
  • Choose to be assertive, but only when it makes sense. But be plan-ful when you make that choice as there will certainly be consequences.
  • Build a network of supporters and mentors and sponsors who will support you through easy and difficult conversations.
  • Understand the motivations and mindset of those who don’t think like you – regardless of whether there will be a difficult conversation.
  • Along those same lines, even when you think someone is very similar to you, there may at some point be a difficult conversation at some point.
  • Focus on the facts and data rather than on the feelings and emotions. 
  • With that said, with difficult conversations, emotions will likely run high – either yours or others’! So know yourself and your own buttons and triggers and proactively manage that. Know where the other party is coming from and manage from there.
  • Practice the 90-second rule – if you let someone vent emotionally for 90 seconds, they may feel heard and you may get real information to help you plan. The trick is to not get angry and defensive during the tirade.
  • Make, grow and maintain relationships before, during and after the necessary difficult conversations. 
  • Be your candid, authentic, unique self. It’s good enough.
  • Be humble and inquisitive, especially when that other person makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Be open to a reality you didn’t consider when you adopted your current position. 

Sometimes, having a difficult conversation is not enough. Walking points include:

  • Lack of respect for the other party
  • Loss of trust between the parties
  • Mis-alignment on goals
  • Too much delta between the parties

We closed with the full topic of the conversation – Difficult Conversations – Bring Them On. For they are a necessary part of our personal growth, and the growth of our team, company and industry. Lead On!


Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Maxim Integrated and our panelists for FountainBlue’s March 15 When She Speaks event was on the topic of ‘ Difficult Conversations – Bring Them On’:

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue
  • Panelist Laura Bermudez, Senior Director of Software Engineering, Carta 
  • Panelist Rosie Cofre, Belonging and Diversity, Principal, Workday 
  • Panelist Diana Finucane, Sr. HR Business Partner, Lam Research
  • Panelist Tracy Laboy, Executive Director of HR, Maxim Integrated
  • Panelist Adriane McFetridge, Director of Engineering, Netflix
  • Panelist Lori Kate (Calise) Smith, Director, Marketing Programs, Machine Learning (ML), ARM

with opening remarks by Ed Medlin, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer at Maxim and closing remarks by Dino Anderson, Executive Director of L&D, D&I at Maxim.


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