Lorin Phillips

Spring is officially here, spring break has likely come and gone, and the rapid pace of the end of the semester is about to begin. While this is often filled with exciting events, it can also be a time with numerous deadlines and long to-do lists. The stress of getting it all done may lead to us being less understanding of your roommate’s annoying habits, team member’s lack of follow-through, or people emailing you questions about things you just announced the night before. The end of the semester combined with a sense of responsibility leaves many leaders frustrated, confused, and over it. You have a choice – ignore it all and get through the semester or step up and address it. Susan Scott said it best in her book Fierce Conversations, “You get what you tolerate.”

What are you tolerating? What needs to be discussed to help your organization focus more on collaboration instead of trying to resolve small personal issues? What decisions do you need to make to get results instead of just participating in every activity or event that comes across the calendar? Are those events even things your members enjoy and align with your values? What do you need to tackle today in order to have a clear list of priorities so you can stop feeling overwhelmed? What are those things that keep you up at night? Do you have that list? If you don’t, take a second and write it down.

So what is stopping you from having that conversation? Do you find yourself saying things like:

  • What do I know? I don’t want to be disrespectful of an officer/senior/advisor.
  • No use saying anything. ___________ doesn’t care what I think.
  • I have no idea what is happening here…it is best to be quiet and look to my officer board to fix this.
  • Nothing I say will make a difference. Why bother?
  • ________ is just going through a hard time and just needs to talk.
  • I’m impatient with this person and just need the summer break to get here. It’ll be better after the summer.

If so, you’re letting your fears and excuses stand square in the way of resolving all of those things that are keeping you up at night. Fears are natural. So is stress and the toll conflict takes on our well-being. My guess is that avoiding the conversation isn’t helping you, them, and your organization. What might happen if nothing changes? I really want you to reflect on that for a moment. What are the potential impacts and outcomes if nothing changes? If those aren’t things you want to see happen, then it is time to do a little adulting and tackle the tough stuff. Not the easy small stuff. We’re all guilty at some point of checking the small things off of our to-do list meanwhile leaving that 30-page paper for later. Tackle that 30-page now.

Where do you begin?

  1. Decide to have the conversation. This isn’t a chapter meeting speech, novel of an email or social media post. This is a face to face, in-person conversation.
  2. Determine who you need to talk with first and invite them to talk. The keyword is “invite” them. Be sure they know this is a problem-solving conversation, not an accountability conversation.
  3. When you invite them to the conversation, be clear on what you want to discuss and what is at stake. For example: I’d like to about the senior bar crawl. I know it is a tradition and it got out of control last year. I’m nervous about someone getting hurt or getting in trouble. I’d like to think about a new tradition that upholds our policies and ensures the safety of our members. I’d love your help to brainstorm some ideas and possible solutions.
  4. Describe the ideal. If you were to take some steps toward “better,” what would that look like? You don’t have to have all of the answers for how to get there, but be able to articulate and outcome. What does it look like if the issue is resolved?
  5. Make a list of questions to ask, not statements to make. The simple act of asking more questions about things you are curious about learning versus statements and being genuinely interested in their viewpoint will change your tone, open up the dialog, and create an environment for collaborative problem-solving.
  6. If you are having the conversation for the right reasons, no matter the outcome it was the right conversation. Be confident in yourself, be confident in your purpose.


“Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time.
While no single conversation is guaranteed to transform a company, a relationship, or a life, any single conversation can.”

― Susan ScottFierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time


To learn more about Lorin and her confrontation keynote and chapter check-in program, visit campuspeak.com/phillips