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Courageous Conversations - The NZ Leader


June 11, 2020

It won’t come as any surprise to you that some of New Zealand’s social interaction norms don’t work in our favour when it comes to engaging in difficult conversations.  Robyn provides seven useful tips to Kiwi leaders embarking on difficult conversations.

‘Courageous conversations’ are the important conversations that we don’t want to have – conversations that require courage.

Our discomfort stems from our fear of how other people (or ourselves) may respond and any long-term effects. This discomfort causes us to procrastinate and these vital conversations are often left for too long. Sometimes we even avoid them, and we are generally underprepared when they do happen.

As a professional working to assist people to communicate effectively with one another on challenging topics, I can assure you:

  1. The risk of postponing, avoiding, or ‘winging’ the conversation is significantly higher, than the risk associated with a timely, well planned courageous conversation.

  2. Effective courageous conversations can prevent conflict, maintain and strengthen relationships, and generate new opportunities.

  3. Courage can be built with courageous conversation skills and should be a core competency in organisations of any size. Resilient leaders and effective courageous conversations go hand in hand.

Our Kiwi Challenge

It won’t come as any surprise to you that some of New Zealand’s social interaction norms don’t work in our favour when it comes to engaging in difficult conversations.  We have many wonderful characteristics as a population - long may our traits of kindness, openness to new ideas, good sense of humour and honesty stay strong. It’s our propensity to be agreeableness and humble (as a population, we lie high on the Mini-IPIP6 Personality Trait scale for both (Sibley & Pirie, 2013)) that can trip us if we’re not careful. Left unchecked these traits can result in a delay or full avoidance of an important conversation, or when in conversation, the ‘skirting around’ of the issues.

When we say, ‘No worries’, ‘No problem’, we hope that will be the case, but often it won’t be. We play down our differences to appear egalitarian (Bonisch-Brednich 2008). We indulge in self-deprecating talk, and don’t really believe what we are saying. Leaders lobby for support and unwittingly encourage ‘group think’, rather than engage in direct purposeful discussion. This stifles progress, potential, and creativity in an organisation, and the misunderstandings and lost opportunities are costly. Staff and the wider public may be mystified and wonder what is going on behind the scenes.

But it’s not bad news…

Here’s seven tips for building your courage to have a courageous conversation:

  1. Be mindful of your language and behaviour – are you procrastinating, avoiding, or skirting around the issues?

  2. Be mindful of other people’s language and behaviour – can you make it safe for them to engage with you in a direct and open way?

  3. Develop your competency by taking some courageous conversation training – equip yourself and your team to succeed

  4. Thoroughly prepare for your courageous conversation (I will provide tips for how to do so in an upcoming blog)

  5. Be genuinely curious when entering a courageous conversation – be open to changing your mind

  6. Practise to improve – none of us get it right the first time

  7. Follow-up on your courageous conversations (more to come on this in a future blog).

Robyn Hill is a courageous conversation trainer, facilitator and coach, an accredited mediator, and an experienced people leader. She is the Director of Courageous Conversations NZ.

#courageousconversationsnz #courageousconversationtraining #eightessentialskills #courageousconversationsatwork #courageousconversationcoaching #organisationalcapability #resilientleaderdevelopment #buildingresilienceintheworkplace #organisationaldevelopment


Sibley, C. G., & Pirie, D. J. (2013). Personality in New Zealand: Scale Norms and Demographic Differences in the Mini-IPIP6. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 42(1), 13–30. Retrieved from https://www.psychology.org.nz/journal-archive/Sibley3.pdf

Bonisch-Brednich, B. (2008). Watching the Kiwis: New Zealanders Rules of Social Interaction - an Introduction. The Journal of New Zealand Studies, (6/7), 3–13. doi: 10.26686/jnzs.v0i6/7.131

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