Communication skills

“Speak up, challenge each other, but for the right reasons”: Joe Hart on safe and effective conversations within your business

- November 29, 2022 4 MIN READ

Navigating personal and professional relationships within a business can be challenging at the best of times. For small business owners, it is especially important to approach difficult conversations with empathy and openness to inspire motivation within your team.

Joe Hart is an organisational psychologist and founder of True Perspective: A leadership development practice. He is a highly experienced executive coach, speaker, trainer, and facilitator and knows exactly what it takes to drive honest conversations, build trust and create meaningful change in your business.

He joins Cec Busby, Editor of Flying Solo to explain how his role as an organisational psychologist helps business owners connect and communicate with both their customers and staff, sharing his best advice for dealing with difficult conversations and customers.

Unpacking organisational psychology

According to Joe, organisational psychology is synonymous with business psychology. His work consists of a strength-focussed type of approach, working with organisations to increase employee engagement for greater productivity and profitability for the organisation.

“I’m more of a leadership development organisational psychologist, so I like working with leaders to help them be more effective,” says Joe. “I believe that the influence that leaders have on the broader population within an organisation is really powerful.”

Joe says the need for intervention and guidance with team management has always been a necessity in some respect and is a skill that should constantly be revisited.

“We’ve always had challenges with motivation and how we attract people into our organisation and make the most of that opportunity once they’re there,” Joe says. “How do we manage people that are underperforming and how do we have difficult conversations?”

Listen to Joe Hart on the Flying Solo podcast:

How to set yourself up for a productive conversation

When it comes to ‘under-performers’, Joe says the most effective way to encourage motivation is to first seek to understand their personal or professional circumstance and to find out what it is that they really enjoy in both areas.

“Somebody could be amazing with numbers and spreadsheets, but actually that’s not where their passion lies,” he says. “Maybe it did at one point because they were getting rewarded for it and acknowledged for it, but they’ve gotten bored.”

Having an open conversation with people to truly understand where their challenges are originating is not always easy though. If confrontation or one-on-one meetings with a colleague can be anxiety inducing for you, Joe says it is important to first acknowledge how these psychological barriers can impact your physical state.

“Take a moment just to evaluate what’s going on physically,” Joe says. “Because if you are wired and stressed and your heart’s thumping and you’re sweating bullets, you’re probably not going to deliver that message in a way that is received well.”

To have an effective and productive conversation, getting yourself back into a relaxed physiological state is the best option possible. According to Joe, the easiest way to do this is by engaging in physical activity to activate your parasympathetic nervous system.

“One of my personal favourites is juggling,” says Joe. “It’s a bit fun but it also gets your brain working and focused on one thing.”

Being conscious of the context surrounding your conversations with team members is also an important thing to consider, Joe says. It’s essential that the surroundings reflect the nature of the discussion, such as a casual park bench for a personal check-in, or a private boardroom to negotiate salary.

“Your pre-existing relationship is another really important factor,” Joe says. “Especially if you’ve been a colleague of somebody and then you shift into manager, knowing how to navigate that change in relationship is really critical.”

Coping with the Karens…

It can be emotionally draining when your team has to deal with inappropriate or difficult customers, impacting everyone’s morale and motivation. According to Joe, taking a step back and approaching the situation once things have de-escalated is far more beneficial than fighting fire with fire.

“If you’re about to go into a confrontation or someone’s behaving really aggressively with you, sometimes the best thing to do is to walk the other way and actually disengage,” Joe says.

Not all customer grievances are invalid however, with legitimate issues demanding thorough attention and action.

“The first step is to be present and to be in the conversation,” Joe says. “It’s so patronising if somebody’s pretending to listen or half listening.”

Equally important as being present, is taking the time to reflect back, says the conversation expert. Joe encourages leaders to enforce this reflective practice as a habit.

“It sounds really simple, but God, I just see so many opportunities missed when people are conversing and they walk away unclear,” he says.

Above all, Joe believes that successful and effective communication within a team and with your customers all begins with a foundation of respect, empathy and openness.

“Take risks, speak up, challenge each other, but for the right reasons,” says Joe. “That combination for any team, in any business, in any industry, in any country, is the key. “

Joe shares more insights and habits to improve your team’s motivation and morale in this episode of Flying Solo.


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