In the weeks leading up to MLA | SLA '23 in Detroit, we’ll profile instructors and their courses. This week, Catherine Soehner, the instructor of Conducting Difficult Conversations: Improving Workplace Effectiveness, Relationships, and Satisfaction, shares her thoughts on Detroit, how she got interested in learning how to have a difficult conversation, and how her course can help you in your career and in life and in making your workplace a happier place for everyone.
What are you most looking forward to seeing/eating/experiencing in Detroit?
I’m looking forward to seeing colleagues and friends, and I want to use the People Mover to experience different parts of the city. How can you resist a transit option named “People Mover”?
What problems, obstacles, or lack of knowledge might your intended audience experience that your course addresses?
We’ve all experienced the need for a difficult conversation. A teammate is not doing the work they agreed to do. Your boss can’t see the disaster that will unfold if a plan they proposed is carried out. One of your staff is consistently negative in group meetings making it difficult for others to voice opinions. Left unaddressed, these situations can cause a lot of stress in the workplace.
What practical, immediately applicable information or skills will learners gain from your course?
You’ll develop a plan for approaching situations you have ignored or unsuccessfully addressed. You’ll gain insight into what makes conversations difficult and what can ease tensions. And you’ll learn techniques that will give you a greater chance of achieving results that are good for you and your partner in the conversation.
How will your course help learners provide value to their employers and advance in their careers?
Successfully navigating difficult personnel issues can improve organizational culture and morale. Your ability to engage in difficult conversations can improve your effectiveness and sense of well-being as an employee, a team member, and a supervisor.
How did you get interested in your topic and what most excites you about it?
I was terrible at having difficult conversations, and as soon as I was named chair of a committee, I realized that I could not escape them! I had to learn how to do this well if I was going to do my job well. It is an amazing skill to be able to be both direct and compassionate while delivering news that the other person doesn’t want to hear. I have quiet confidence as I conduct these meetings now, which has reduced my stress significantly.
What’s the main thing you hope learners will take away from your course?
I hope learners are able to integrate the steps to holding productive conversations into their work and personal lives. I also hope they keep working at this skill to reduce their stressors at work.