Communicate Courageously with Michelle Gladieux

Reading Time: 20 Minutes

In this episode, Michelle Gladieux discusses her book, Communicate with Courage: Taking Risks to Overcome the Four Hidden Challenges.

Takeaways We Learned from Michelle…

Simpify your life.

Improving your communication skills can simplify your life by reducing misunderstandings, building stronger relationships, and enhancing your overall effectiveness. Focus on continuous growth in communication to navigate challenges with clarity and confidence.

Don’t fear communication mistakes.

Instead, embrace them as valuable learning experiences. Sharing your stories of overcoming communication challenges can inspire others and help them navigate similar situations with courage and resilience.

Be vulnerable.

Embrace bravery by sharing your authentic experiences and lessons learned. Your openness can resonate with others, provide valuable guidance, and make a meaningful impact in their lives.

Identify hidden challenges.

By recognizing and addressing these challenges, you can unlock your full potential as a communicator and achieve greater success in your personal and professional interactions.

Embrace feedback from trusted individuals.

Seek input from those who have your best interests at heart, such as your best clients, family members, and close friends. Their opinions can provide valuable insights into how others perceive you as a communicator.

Engage in the feedback challenge.

Approach people you trust and ask them what they appreciate about your communication style and what improvements they suggest. By actively seeking both positive feedback and constructive criticism, you can identify areas for growth and further enhance your communication skills.

Value the power of listening.

Pay attention to recurring feedback and themes in the compliments and constructive criticisms you receive. Actively listen when others highlight areas where you can improve, even if it challenges you. By focusing on improving your listening skills, you can address a common weakness and become a more effective communicator. Remember to express gratitude for the feedback and take time to reflect on it privately.

Recognize the power of one person.

Understand that as an individual, you have the capacity to create positive change. Rather than settling for “good enough” or thinking that your actions won’t make a difference, embrace the belief that one person can have a significant impact. Be willing to take risks, speak up, and initiate change in areas of your life that need improvement. Balancing kindness and bravery in your actions can help you inspire positive transformations and be a catalyst for meaningful change.

Challenge and test your assumptions.

We all have biases, some of which are unconscious. It’s important to take a step back and examine our assumptions before rushing to judgment. By questioning what we believe to be true, we can avoid falling into the trap of making hasty decisions based on limited information. One powerful exercise is to test your assumptions by bringing them into the light and examining them objectively.

Find your voice and take risks.

By summoning the courage to speak up in situations where injustice or unfairness is present, you can make a positive impact and inspire others to do the same. Whether it’s advocating for yourself, standing up for someone you care about, or supporting someone who’s not in the room, finding the strength to speak out can lead to positive change.

Embrace conflict as an opportunity for growth.

By approaching conflicts with a mindset of compromise, collaboration, and learning, we can navigate challenging situations and strengthen relationships. Embracing conflict allows us to learn more about ourselves and others, leading to personal development and deeper connections.

Take calculated risks.

While it’s essential to be cautious and consider the potential consequences, calculated risks can lead to new opportunities, growth, and fulfilling experiences. Don’t let the fear of failure or uncertainty hold you back from taking meaningful risks.

Express gratitude and appreciation.

Don’t assume that others know how you feel about them. Take the time to express your gratitude, whether it’s through a heartfelt note, a sincere conversation, or a small act of kindness. By acknowledging and celebrating the uniqueness of the people in our lives, we can deepen our connections and create lasting memories.

About Michelle Gladieux

Michelle is the President of Gladieux Consulting and author of Communicate with Courage: Taking Risks to Overcome the Four Hidden Challenges. She believes that raising your game as a communicator is one of the most authentic and rewarding ways to make a difference in the world.

Read the Transcript

Allison: Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am your host and executive business coach Allison Dunn. Our guest today is Michelle Gladieux. She is the President of Gladieux Consulting and author of Communicate with Courage: Pick Taking Risks to Overcome the Four Hidden Challenges. Michelle believes that raising your game as a communicator is one of the most authentic and rewarding ways to make a difference in the world. Today, she will share her best tips her pro moves in communicate with courage. Michelle, thank you so much for joining us today.

Michelle: It’s an absolute pleasure, I enjoy your podcast.

Allison: Thank you very much. We’re glad to have you on. As you know, since you’ve listened to my podcast, I kick these off with a deliberate conversation. What is your number one leadership tip for our listeners today?

Michelle: My number one leadership tip is going to be simple.

It’s worth it to work on your written and verbal communication and listening skills because life gets less complicated when you do.

Allison: Such a concise tip, and not an easy task to always do.

Michelle: Through I think more people would enjoy improving of communicators if they thought of it as baby steps and a little bit of experimentation, and adding intention and being open to the humor that life gives us that we all have communication foibles. And those stories when we try and it doesn’t go the way we want it to those stories are so educational to others.

And I’m grateful for all of my embarrassments now, because I know we’re both coaches are both executive coaches. But we both probably care a lot about our family and friends and people of all ages who might come to us. And it’s, as you know, very helpful when you’re coaching to be able to say that’s happened to me in front of an audience or before a presentation or in a performance review. And here’s what I learned from it.

Allison: I agree that the best way to learn is trial and error. And sometimes it’s more error than trial. But as long as you continue to try.

Michelle: Amen. And you know, with this book, The communicate with courage book, I’d say it’s research based. And it’s got an academic sort of bent. But it’s also got a lot of personal stories that I think will resonate with readers. And really, for the first time in my life here, I’m not teaching solely from an academic point of view. And it’s it, I had to be brave. If I’m writing a book about courage, I have to be brave about what I share. So I shared some things that I had to put out in my mind that it’s now available everywhere books are sold. That’s a little bit scary. Right? But they’re my stories I own my stories and my stories help people learn. Have at it.

Allison: Absolutely. Well, thank you for putting your gift out into the world. I would love to take just a few moments. So you highlight basically four hidden challenges by teeing up taking the risks to overcome four hidden challenges. Could you outline what those four hidden challenges are?

Michelle: Absolutely, they are hiding, defining, rationalizing and settling and to go just a little bit more in depth. Hiding is from risk. And when we are defining we are trying to be right, and we’re really holding on to control that we believe we are right, which is often a great way to actually lose any positive influence. The third hidden challenge that I write about in the book and each gets its own chapter is rationalizing the negative and that is choosing or forgetting to know that we are making a choice when it comes to pessimism versus optimism. And the last hidden challenge is settling for good enough. And that’s when we care about how the communication goes. But we just do kind of a C plus effort because it’s all that anyone else is doing or we’re not quite sure that it will work out for us.

So we sort of fly low to terms I hate put together fly and low. Now, I’m not saying everybody has to strive all the time. That would be exhausting. Absolutely check out say no, ask for help, etc. But when it aligns with your values, that’s the most important time to be courageous as a communicator. You know, get your heart out there full, my full body full heart effort, choose a few things in life. You know, maybe it’s what you want for your career or your kids or your relationship with your significant other or it’s something you want to learn. This book will help people go for it hopefully.

Allison: Fantastic. One of the things that I appreciated in going through the book was that you have pro move tips throughout each chapter. During so I know that you highlighted that in the chapters are broken up by the four hidden challenges. Would you mind sharing some of your pro moves that we can talk about to help our listeners become better communicators? Which ones are your favorites?

Michelle: Whoo. Okay, so I thought a little bit about this before we move on, I would say. Celebration is a pro move. Here’s the pro move from chapter 13. Alli, I don’t know who’s going to celebrate us if it’s not us for ourselves, because everybody seems really busy. So a lot of my coaching clients have what we call a self care or stress management menu. And we have fun just listing I have minds on a five by seven piece of paper like cardstock. And I carry it with me and I list things that restore my body, mind or soul. And then I tried to engage in one of those per day celebration.

Here’s the chapter three promo. Identify one hidden challenge to try to rise above this year, it’s not a straight line of progress. So plan on moving at a reasonable pace of two steps forward one step back. Baby steps are perfectly fine. As you develop courage to grow as a communicator. Celebrate in a way that’s meaningful to you. When you act despite your fear.

Don’t wait for someone else to celebrate you, reward yourself.

Allison: Celebration is probably one of the one core values in our team that we talk about a lot. And the one that I just feel like people just don’t celebrate enough. It doesn’t have to cost anything.

Michelle: It does not. It could be a quick walk a quick stretch a call to a friend, you could set up lunch for next month, I noticed that setting up when I reward myself for something that was hard for me to give myself courage or to prepare for something that’s going to be facing a fear. And I set something up for the next month. I look forward to it for the next three weeks. And it pays off every week until that simple lunch with a friend who maybe I was feeling some separation with and I want to get back together and look in their eyes.

Allison: Yeah. Great tip. Love that one. What would be your second favorite?

Michelle: Okay, second favorite. Let us see you a little more fully. This is the promo from chapter four. Let those you trust tell you how they see you. As you take communication risks. You quiet your inner critic, and step away from hiding as a coping mechanism. Unkind or unprofessional critics will matter less, you’ll be too engaged in learning to let the turkeys get you down.

Allison: Who would you recommend in that circle? Is it obvious? I mean, are you asking your mom? Are you asking your best friend? Are you asking your best clients? Who are you asking?

Michelle: Well, that’s a great question best would be they have your best interest at heart. So best client best family member to ask best friend, if anyone has intentionally hurt you through their communication and not been sorry. I think their opinion matters less. They have some work to do for themselves and some healing to do for themselves. And in the meantime, they might not be able to give feedback truly constructively. Okay, there’s somebody it’s not it’s nothing. It’s not highly, it’s not highly metric or rational, I think we can trust our intuition about who deserves to tell us how they see us. And they could be wrong. But we’re interested in their opinion.

So we might take the feedback challenge exercise, which is detailed in the book. It’s simple. You go to some people you trust and say, Hey, I’m reading this book, I listened to this podcast. The chapter was a challenge. I have homework, and people tend to relax when you say I have homework. What’s the homework that I can help you with?

No, I have some homework you could help me with what’s that? Well, the instruction was just ask a few people who you trust. Hey, what’s something you like about communicating with me? And what’s something you sometimes wish I would do differently? And I throw this some I do this. I tried to do this annually.

But I throw this sometimes in there because then the really nice people are the people who aren’t very self assured. Or maybe they’re more amiable, you know, and less of a driver personality, a dominant personality, when they hear that sometimes that calms them down a little bit. And it’s just an opinion, I’ll say, and so I would love one thing in each category. So I like fishing and trying to reel in one compliment and fishing and trying to reel in one constructive criticism at least. Now I have had folks that only wanted to share praise, which is nice for your ego but Then I tried to guide them and say, That’s great. That means a lot. Thank you. I’ll think about that. And that’s the cue you respond with. Thank you, I’ll think about that, no matter what crazy stuff they say, because all you’re going to do need to do is get away from them quickly. And think about it alone. So I’ll say thank you, I’ll think about that. I’d really love to get something that you think I could do better, though, I know, you’re observant, and you’re around me a lot, or you see me four times a year or whatever. So please let me know when you think of something.

And I’ve had folks call me up like, after a good long time and say, I thought of something. Okay, I’m still ready to hear it. So our executive coaching clients are often assigned this in the third month, I usually wait for about three sessions, because you need a certain level of diplomacy and smooth operator kind of mojo as a communicator, to put people at ease to tell you how they see you as a communicator, a positive, and then something you could work on. But I like to ask people like from different states, clients from different industries.

And when I’ve done that, I tend to get, you know, six different people, six different compliments, which Ali, I hold, like a bouquet of flowers just okay. Then the constructive feedback has been consistent. And one year it was everybody said in not knowing each other different states, they all said that I need to work on listening when I disagree. And listening when I’m excited and listening that that dot and listening, listening kept coming up, and they didn’t know each other. So in my mini scientific experiment there, that’s the year I really began working on listening. I kind of knew it, I knew that I had that weakness. But that brought it to light for me and the bouquet of roses that some people will give you that come along with the criticism makes it much more palatable. Yeah.

Allison: That’s a great pro tip. How often should someone go about this type of exercise once a year?

Michelle: I like once a year. It takes a lot of guts, it definitely requires courage to open up, be vulnerable and ask them what they think and then not argue. But instead say thank you, I’ll think about that. Or not explain yourself or No, no, no, you didn’t, you’d understand my intention. Just thank you. I’ll think about that. You can always come back a different day to say, Alli I’ve thought it through and I wanted to ask for more clarification or state my intention or whatever that is. But I think you know, you and I, as executive coaches today, we could give every listener this homework assignment whenever they need it. So maybe they use it on the drive to the holiday visit with the family in the car, within find out some things there. Or you could sprinkle it throughout your life, use it when you need it.

Don’t focus more on the negative than the positive. Really enjoy the praise that you receive.

Well, that’s another pro tip.

Allison: I love that I’m just going to put out a challenge to my consistent listeners. I know you’re listening. And I would encourage you to take the on the challenge of asking this question of your best circle, you can think of another pro tip. They won’t forget. I’ve had people not respond. And then tell me years later, that meant a lot that you asked, but I wasn’t in a position where I felt comfortable sharing. But so let’s it those of you that are like no problem. I do this on the regular. I have upward feedback always from my team. It’s even in a review process. Okay, then go to some people who are in your out group who there’s some weirdness with or some discomfort with? Yeah, and have the guts to go ask them and you never know, they might tell you something that changes your relationship for the better forever. Sure. Okay, wait, do you have one more pro tip for us that you really do?

Michelle: Look into my book. Okay, Chapter Seven pro move. Chapter Seven is settling for good enough how to overcome the hidden challenge of settling for good enough. And here’s the premier has the power of one person, you instead of thinking it’s not that important, or I’m only one person here, try, I have the power as one person to at least try to change this circumstance. So it’s something that you don’t want or that is not going well in your life or you might see a potential to make someone else’s life better or your organization or team better. The power of one person throughout history has been well documented to create outstanding ripples of positive change. I go on to say history is filled with people who made a difference by being first to act or acting alone.

Take a risk you can Be the person who asks the first question, or volunteers to say a little more than is required.

Take the risk of being seen, misjudged or misunderstood, you may happily find you are instead fairly judged and even understood more fully, but be the person who holds hope and takes action.

So we could find, we could think about our life and we could find one area that is disappointing in some way to us, or that leaves us wishing for more. And maybe we could apply written or verbal communication, or heck, even a phone call or text to see what we can do about that. Always trying to be kind. And brave. mixing those two things together is a good idea. Because bravery, courage on its own, can really be hurtful to people. Yep. And it’s that balance. If that balance directness with empathy, tightrope.

Allison: Those are fantastic tips in your book you used me just to give find the right words for it. So it was horns to halo effect, or halos to Horn, a horn effect? And I just kept picturing. You know, the two, can you talk about what that effect means? And how to identify it?

Michelle: Yeah, so that’s a that is sort of an offshoot stereotyping. So maybe I’m interviewing someone to join my company. And I’m really looking for someone who is reliable, and doesn’t miss a lot of work. And so the first one of the first questions I might ask them, the candidate is, tell me about your attendance in your work history. And they come back with Sure, Michelle, I’m happy to say that I have won the Attendance Award at XYZ company the last three years running. Now we have Halo effects happening because everything else I asked this person is going to be overshadowed by I want this person on my team, they’re reliable, and they it’s their attendance is excellent. And that’s what I need.

Now, subject matter expertise, presentation skills, or collaboration skills might be lacking. But I can’t get out of my head, this halo effect because I had I heard one thing or saw one thing I really liked about the person. So this is about hanging back and trying not to rush in with assumptive, judgments, horns effects, same question. Let’s say the person says, well, that’s why I was let go for my last position was an attendance issue. I got sick, I didn’t have any more days off available. And now the next nine questions I have, maybe I speed through because I’m already deciding, not reliable, not fair.

So in the book, I tried to underline some common biases that we see in our training and coaching and help leaders and that’s everybody at all levels, volunteer or paid work, leadership is there to help all of our leaders who are readers and listeners understand that we all have bias some of its unconscious, and it’s a good idea to take a look at your assumptions. It kind of relates to the hidden challenge of defining to be right, when we put too much stock into our assumptions.

Allison:  And we’re so damn sure you know, we’re so quick to judge what my favorite questions ask clients when they’re talking about something. And I just need them to understand what do you believe to be true here?

Michelle: Ooh, that’s good. What do you believe to be true? Which causes me to already, it almost caused me to question my own assumptions. Going into by actually taking note of that, when I’m coaching.

Allison: You may be true here, because sometimes it’s unclear and they’re conflicting in what they’re talking about. And then there’s clearly a belief system that’s underlying it, and I just need them to understand what they’re assuming in most of these circumstances.

Michelle: Yeah, and you’ll hear things probably like, Well, I’m going to get fired if or they’re doomsday scenarios, they don’t really hold up when you place them in the light and look at them. Right? It reminds me of a self talk exercise I do with my clients, asking them and I tried to do with myself, catch yourself, thinking about yourself or talking to yourself, just notice I shouldn’t say catch. Don’t get down on yourself about it. Just notice and then document it and bring it to our next coaching session, the good and the bad. And the stuff on the list that the negative stuff on the list is heartbreaking. And often not true. Sometimes it is true. And then that’s an area to work on. But you know, one woman came forth with a tell myself, I’m a terrible mom. And I said, Wow, I’m not I don’t have human kids. So I’m more of a dog mom. So when I think about good mom, I think is your child fed healthy food? Do they get time with you to learn? Do you care about their involvement in school? Do you provide social opportunities. I’m naming these things. And she’s going, of course, I think she’s like getting more annoyed with me as I’m asking these questions. She’s like, of course, of course.

I said, I’m sorry, then I don’t understand. It’s kind of like your what you believe to be true here doesn’t seem to line up. What are you a terrible mom? She said, Well, I’ve had a lot of zoom meetings and night lately, with my team. And I know that my kids would rather I’d be doing anything with them without that evening time work. I said, okay, so you’re good mom, who wants to work less than evening, she’s like, I’m ready to cross that out. So I’d love to see people test their assumptions in that way. We should all do that once in a while. Yeah, for sure. Some of the negatives are real. And then you start with baby steps towards becoming who you want to be right? Yes, deliberate, as you would say, deliberately, can even be it can even be gingerly, if the person is very cautious as a communicator, and they haven’t found their voice or they haven’t been raised to believe their voice matters when actually it does very much.

So there are a lot of people that you can inspire. When you find your own voice and take some risks. It’s tougher, but that’s why we’re looking for just ginger even gingerly, taking a few small steps forward. When you align with your values. It’s easier. Yes, for example, I’ve decided, I’m not going to have to think overnight, if I’m in a meeting and I, there’s an example of racism or ageism, any kind of any kind of unfair action being taken that’s based on incomplete information or inaccurate information that could damage someone’s life, I’m going to be tried to be diplomatic about it and not make anyone feel ashamed. But I’m going to go ahead and find a way to say something in that meeting in real time, rather than think on it, and then try to get back to the person or the person’s later. So if I’m aligned with my values, that’s when I can summon my courage. And there’s really no one else that can do that for us.

Allison: And then it’s a very good point and a good reason to Summon your courage at that moment.

Michelle: Also, could we just stick up for ourselves or just to stick up for someone we care about? Or how about to stick up for someone who’s not in the room? Right, you know, oh, I don’t know. I heard at one company I heard a big IT project was going to be given to a less experienced IT leader, because the more experienced IT leader that I believe was probably looking forward to something like this her whole career. She had just had a baby. And I think meaning well, for people in the rooms, that it’d be too much, you know, let’s not even approach her about it. She just had a baby that could be overwhelming, or she was on leave, coming back soon. And so I knew that it was time for me to put my hand up and say, Oh, I think we should you should at least offer that opportunity. If there’s any chance she could be interested if you’ve identified her as the top candidate for project managing, right?

Allison: In that pastoral?

Michelle: Who knows, maybe that parents has help. Great. Right. So I think that’s happened a lot behind closed doors that folks have been counted out and with our small boys are one person that might be enough to change the trajectory. And so I’m going to be okay. All right, I’ll send her an email.

Allison: Michelle, you write a love letter to conflict in your book?

Michelle: Yes, What a weirdo. Why I am?

Allison: Why do you do that?

Michelle: Why I do that. I think I grew up in a house with a lot of conflicts. My parents loved each other, but argued a lot. And they were married for 47 years until death did them part. And one good thing about their debates that I was often witness to is my mom would take me to the side and say, you know, I know that this got pretty rough tonight. But I want you to know, there’s no one else we’d rather be arguing with each other. So I was around conflicts, pretty open conflict. And I wanted to understand more about how it worked. I think that part led me to want a degree in psychology to study organizational psychology. And it’s just that I’ve taught conflict management since the 90s.

I love it was my master’s thesis work. People run from it, or people try to overpower others in it. And a better approach would be compromised, collaborate, learn. And it’s really hard for me, I’m a competitive person. And my personality assessments that we use with executive coaching clients continue to come back year after year, as competing is my favorite. Maybe some modeling was happening there. But I think it’s where most growth occurs. So if you think about the toughest points in your life, maybe you’ve had a disagreement with someone you love very much very close to you, and hopefully got through it in some way and you’re still in communication. That’s big. That was the that was gold tested and fire. That relationship was tested in fire. You learned a lot about yourself from it. You’ve come through So I believe it’s where most growth occurs. And that’s why I gave it a page long new love letter.

Allison: Okay, I love that. I have a couple more questions, but I’m going to narrow it down to just the final one, I think my favorite portion of the book is when you’re discussing the risks that you shouldn’t take as a communicator. And just on a high level, could you kind of just share that gold that will draw people into the book?

Michelle: Oh, okay. So risks not worth taking include trying to choose our risks before they choose us. So we’re taking a risk by not taking risk at all, because my premise there, and I talked about how to avoid dealing with or if you have to deal with manipulative people, how you can approach that we talk about happens, that never happens. It never happens. And sometimes it’s us. We don’t want to be the manipulator. But we need to know when that’s when different mechanisms, people are trying to use different control tactics that aren’t ethical. I warn readers about setting unbelievably high standards, that’s not a risk that’s worth taking, that will create burnout, letting others define us.

No resist that. I’ve enjoyed. I’ve enjoyed living my life as a woman in business and women in academia, and oftentimes advising people with more power, money, experience, etc. But knowing that I do my stuff, I’m not going to let someone define my abilities. And I don’t want our readers and listeners to do that either. We sometimes shy away from constructive feedback. So how not to do that is in the book, how to avoid communicating when you’re too mad to see clearly or too angry. trying to be funny, when you might instead be insulting humor is really tough, it’s tough to pull off an email, it’s tough to pull off live with an audience or one on one, so as to avoid some of these bumps in the road.

And finally, assuming people know how you feel about them, and I write about that in this way. One more night, one more road trip one more laugh or picnic or embrace or hockey game, spin around the dance floor or walk on the beach or trip to the grocery store.

You realize everyone you hold dear will someday be unable to attend life’s moments with you. Right? So muster up your courage and pop a note in the mail.

If you don’t love snail mail as much as I do, that’s okay. Drop a quick line via electronic means and share your gratitude for what makes the standout people in your life uniquely special.

Because life is so short and those standout people we think they know or we’d be embarrassed to tell them that those are my like two excuses. I think they already know Ali or that would be weird. That’s a risk not worth taking today’s the day is the right day to recognize someone for their uniqueness and theirs at their special to you. That’s important to let them know. So that’s like a little overview of that short chapter every chapter short because I in I envision this being thrown into purses and briefcases and bags and something easy to take with you.

Allison: On that final note and that final tip, Michelle, thank you. I appreciate you being here with us today and sharing your insights into being a communicator to communicate with courage.

Michelle: That was a blessing.

Allison: I definitely want to make sure that our listeners I will include in the show notes but what is the best way for people to connect with you?

Michelle: Easy peasy. Tough French last name to spell but You can sign up for our quarterly newsletter. We’re trying to get free resources in people’s hands. And that’s glad i e u x like X ray tons of Coach’s Corner articles and you can follow us on Instagram or Facebook. We’ve tried to post pretty regularly as well.

Allison: Fantastic. Michelle, thank you so much for joining us here today on Deliberate Leaders.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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