I may be on shaky ground here but give me a chance. I read a newsletter from Pat Lencioni (Death by Meetings, Five Dysfunctions of a Team) that makes a lot of sense out of the financial crisis right now and is good advice for leaders and business owners who want to succeed.

In the current crisis, there is more than enough blame to go around, and many potential solutions. But not much comment on the cause of it all. Pat thinks, and I agree, that it’s due to absence of tough conversations within organizations today. Did board members speak up and challenge the wisdom of the $20 million exit bonuses negotiated for the new CEO when they were hired? Did loan officers speak up and challenge the wisdom of the loan terms offered on these bad loans and say no as common sense dictated?

Pat sums it up well: “The biggest cause of this and other crises is that most leaders operate under the assumption that they should never have to engage in discussions that are awkward, confrontational or career-limiting. As a result, they rarely have the kind of uncomfortable discussions that prevent people from doing stupid and harmful things. Instead, they are polite and guarded and collegial with one another, even when what is called for is passionate disagreement or even outrage.”

Good leaders speak up and say what needs to be said. They welcome passionate arguments about what’s the right thing to do. They encourage tough questions and the dialogue such questions bring. They intuitively know that such conversations bring stronger and better decisions. However painful they know that tough conversation are healthy.

I’m willing to venture that my Inner Circle clients and my Gazelles Clients are doing better than others in the current financial climate because they regularly force tough conversations. They get challenged by their peers at Inner Circle and they get challenged by their executive teams at Gazelles Strategic planning sessions I facilitate. And the do better as a result.

Right now our leaders are being challenged by Congress and the voters. They are forcing tough questions that just maybe should have been asked before. And I’m betting that the ensuing resolution of the crisis will be better for it.

What are you doing to make sure tough conversations take place in your organization.