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SS 55 – Tough Conversations with Richard Tiller

Episode: 55

Guest: Richard Tiller

iTunes: Stream Episode


Richard Tiller is a motivational leader, manager, coach, as well as an author. He has been a bible teacher for the past three decades and wrote the Tough Conversations with the Heart of Jesus book. He shares some great insights on the Solomon Success show on how you can be a better leader in your work place and he also shares some great advice on having the tough conversations no one wants to have.


Key Takeaways:
3:15 – The biggest reason why we avoid tough conversations is due to fear.
9:10 – Richard shares some great phrases you can use to make tough conversations easier.
12:30 – It’s important to tell people what they’ve done well, but also let them know the standards that you’ve set for them.
15:20 – Don’t worry about winning or losing. It’s a team effort.
18:10 – The key to success in short term relationships is gratification, but that doesn’t work for long term relationships.
20:35 – Richard talks about the biblical aspects of his book in Tough Conversations with the Heart of Jesus.



“The best results in any kind of tough conversation is to focus on the needs and the well being and the dignity of the other person.”

“The principles for being a good salesperson are really quite similar to the principles for being a successful leader.”

“The only foundation that works for a long term relationship is trust.”


Mentioned In This Episode:



Jason Hartman:
Welcome to the Solomon Success show. This is your host Jason Hartman where we talk about biblical principles applied to business and investing, learning from King Solomon, of course. We will be back with a fantastic guest for you in just a moment here, but be sure to visit or our website at or Take advantage of our extensive blog library and our free content. I think you’ll find some fantastic things there, so be sure to visit us on the web at

It’s my pleasure to welcome Richard Tiller to the show. He is an expert on motivation and leadership and sales management and has a few books out. One is Motivation from the Heart: The guide to Motivational leadership and another is Tough Conversations with the Heart of Jesus and another New Home Sales Management – How to Build and Lead a Winning Team.

I wanna talk about this tough conversations angle because both yours truly and I know many of us try and avoid tough conversations sometimes, but we need to have them. So, Richard, welcome, how are you?

Richard Tiller:
I’m good, Jason, how are you?

Good, good. It’s good to have you and where are you located today?

I’m just outside of Washington DC in Vienna, Virginia.

Fantastic. Well, so tough conversations, I think it’s fair to say many of us try to avoid tough conversations when possible. We don’t wanna have them, we put them off, we say we’ll get to them tomorrow. It’s kind of like, getting on that good diet or whatever it is, right? We kind of put those off. You know, talk to us about, I like in the book you have a chapter called Avoid Avoidance and Tough Conventions from a Position of Strength.

Let’s dive into this and talk about what you mean by that,

Well, the biggest hurdle we have in tough conversations is fear. Basically the fear of what will happened to us and if we can take that fear out of the equation, then we’ll just feel stronger. We’ll feel more..a greater sense of positive anticipation for the tough conversation and we can do that more effectively.

So, there’s attitude component and there’s a how-to component in terms of overcoming fear and being able to engage in tough conversations more comfortable, more confidently, and more effectively. The attitude part is, we wanna approach a tough conversation, not as something to be avoided or feared, but we wanna approach it as an opportunity to achieve a resolution, sometimes a breakthrough, occasionally even a transformation that can not be achieved any other way.

So, we wanna always approach a tough conversation with the belief that we’d be better off after the conversation is over than before it began and so will the other person.

So, if we have that belief system going in, that’s how we get into a position of strength by viewing it as something that’s going to improve both parties’ lives, right?

Right, because we’re no longer worried about what’s going to happen to us, we’re worried about achieving positive resolutions for both people. In other words, it’s not about winning and losing. Often, the fear is somehow we’re going to lose. this is not about winning or losing, it’s about win-win. Everyone comes better off than they were before.

Okay, so when someone has to have a tough conversation like terminating a employee or ending a relationship. These are hard conversations to have. How do we, you know, take us through an example of how we can view this in win-win light.

Well, looking at, I mentioned a moment ago, there’s a attitude component and a how-to component, so if I go down the road now of the how-to component, generally speaking, the key to achieving the best results in any kind of tough conversation is to focus on the needs and the well being and the dignity of the other person.

Let my own needs and well being and dignity take care of themselves and trust that they will. So, I’m going into the conversation saying, “I’m going to be fine. I don’t have to worry about myself here. I need to make sure that the other person gets through this fine as well.” So, I wanna understand what needs they have as best I can. When I say needs, that’s not the same as wants, but the needs as best as I can understand them.

Their well being and often times their dignity, meaning I’m taking them seriously, that I want them to remain whole. If that’s my primary focus, it really changes the dynamic, because what’s so often happens that’s not actually our primary focus.

It’s more like we don’t want to get run over or we don’t want to wind up worse off than we were before. So, I’m going down the opposite road of that. Making sure the other person comes out with their dignity in tact.

So, tell us a little bit more about how we do that. What are the some of the things we can say? How can we, you know, how can we set this up so that we have this context and the other person knows that we’re coming from this context?

When we’re engaging in a conversation with an employee that is addressing their need to improve. Let’s say I’m putting them on notice or it’s a serious situation they really need to preform better and their job is at risk, so I’m not starting out with the idea of their job is at risk, I’m starting out with the idea that I do believe in them.

I’m telling them exactly what I believe in them, what I’ve seen them do that I think is exceptional, what abilities I’ve seen, why I believe they can succeed if they commit themselves to it, then I explain to them the steps that they would need to take and then I also need to get their commitment that they will do it and when they will do it. That they will and when they will. I’ve got to close the loop on this.

In this approach, I’m taking them seriously, I’m focused on their dignity, their well being. I’m not pulling any punches, but I am saying they do believe can make. I am being specific as to why. I give them my vision of the kind of success they can achieve, explain the steps, and then get them to commit to it and when they will commit it. So, the next conversation we have is no longer about the performance it’s about the commitment that they made.

Yeah, yeah, fantastic. Okay, good, any key words that we can use that, you know, that soften the difficult of this tough conversation or key phrases? I just thought I’d ask.

So, when I’m talking to the employee for example?

Well, that example or in any other example of any other tough conversation, it doesn’t have to be the same one.

Phrases would be, “I want you to know how much I value you because..” or “I want you to know how much I appreciate..” Something they’ve done or something about who they are. “I need to talk to you about this because I want to help you get where you’re trying to go,” and “I wanna be by your side as we do this.” So, “I wanna us to work as a team.”, “I wanna us to put our heads together and figure out a way to get you where you wanna go.”, “What I’ve seen is…” Such and such, I’m getting into the concern and then I’m saying to them, “But how do you see this? Do you see it differently than I do?”

Now, this path I’m going down doesn’t apply quite as directly as breaking up with someone, but it does applies to other situations.

Right, right, sure. Okay, good. Well, let’s talk about a little bit…if you have anything else on the tough conversations, let’s talk about that, but I also wanted to talk about general leadership and any other parts of this equation.

Well, interesting, the principles that help us be successful in tough conversations are, they have a lot in common, they have a lot of overlapping, with the principles that make a person a successful manager. In the managers, the leaders, that I’ve worked with where I’ve seen the biggest transformation where basically the manager went from a leader that people did not want to follow to a leader that they did and that’s about as a big of a transformation you can have as a leader.

The common denominators were that they changed, they transformed, from an approach of keeping employees at bay, so to speak, especially the troublesome ones. Changing from that approach to an approach of engaging with them from the standpoint of focusing on their needs and dignity over their own. So, the goal of the conversation that they’re having with their individuals, it goes from winning to sort of resolution for everyone. Be committed to their success, anticipating a happy ending, so to speak.

Also, from a leadership standpoint, what’s extremely important is striking the right balance between encouragement and accountability, which was sort of what I was doing in my examples a little earlier. That’s very, very important.

The right balance that’s important, the right balance of encouragement and accountability, you said?

In other words..

Okay.. Yeah, elaborate on that.

So, I want to encourage them in the sense of letting them know that I do believe in them, I do take them seriously, I do trust them, I do count on them, but not false encouragement. I want to base that on things I’ve truly seen that they can relate to just as I do, but then I also want them to understand the standard that I’ve set, why the standard exists, and a comment to and adhered to the standard. It’s mutual accountability.

I often used to say to the people who worked for me, “If ever I’m not meeting your expectations, I want you to let me know and if ever you’re not meeting my expectations, I’ll let you know. Is that fair?” And, of course they’d say, “Yes.”

I want to become a better manager too. So, if there’s a criticism, I’ll sit down, I’ll talk it through, and we’ll come to a resolution on that. But likewise, when the time comes for me to say to them, “Here’s what I need for you to do differently.” Then I’ll follow a process of, here’s what to do, here’s how to do it, here’s why to do it that way, will you do it and when, call me after you’ve done it, let me know how it went, and can you do it be yourself from this point on? Are you self-sufficient, in other words.

So, that’s the way the balance and encouragement and accountability would work because each case one without the other is much weaker. The two combined form a powerful, powerful force for leadership.

Okay, good. So, encouragement and accountability combined.

It’s about a 50/50 balance. There are very equal.

So, you have a background in the new home sales industry as a sales trainer. You know, what can we learn from that industry that can be applied more generally to anybody in sales and leadership?

Well, in the home building industry, the principles for being a good salesperson are really quite similar to the principles for being a successful leader. Taking the people that you’re working with seriously, saying what needs to be said when it needs to be said; if there’s bad news to deliver, then deliver it sooner rather than later.

Deliver it directly, but give them an explanation, do it respectfully, come up with whatever solution is possible, listen to them, don’t worry about winning or losing, and it’s more of a team effort. So, whether it’s with them having to deal with a customer or whether I’m a manager dealing with an employee or even an employee managing up.

All of those principles still are essential to whether it’s leading a customer and, often times, a salesperson really is in a leadership role and the customer expects that. Not a dominating role, just a leadership role. Same of course with a manager. So, that encouragement and accountability applies to sales as well as management. I think that, it’s so important in our business because of how large the purchase is and how well we have to treat a customer and I think we learn a lot from that and I think that could be applied in other industries as well.

You know, we have a lot of real estate investors who listen to my various show and depending on the market cycle, sometimes we’ll recommend new home properties to them because our investors just love single-family homes, just a simple, most historical proven investments in America, no question.

Sometimes, my real estate investment company will be working with new home builders around the country and different markets that we’d recommend and sometimes the market is really slated towards re-sale and of course we have investors buying apartment buildings and so forth too when they wanna do bigger things. It’s just interesting to see how differently new home sales people work and really real estate in general is just a fragmented industry, you know.

It’s so different in each locality, there’s just different customs, and didn’t ways of being. You know, I just thought I’d ask, we’ve worked with many, many big new home builders whether it be Pulte, D. R. Horton, KB, gosh, you know, Beazer, the list goes on and on, just thought I’d ask you for any insights on, you know, different companies and their philosophies. Maybe you don’t even wanna mention names, but you could just talk about them without mentioning a name, whatever you like. I just thought I’d throw that out there.

Well, customer satisfaction is an important part of the new home industry. We have long term relationships with our customers. Just the building cycle itself, we can be working with a customer for 4-6 months and then afterwards we are their neighbors, so you know..

Because in other words, if they live there, the sales office is still right there. Yeah, not true in most of our investors cases, but yeah, I can see that, certainly.

But in terms of philosophy, one of the defining philosophies is that we do have long term relationships with customers and so, you know, an argument could be made that the key to success in short term relationships is gratification. That’s somewhat cynical approach, but some people treat short term relationship as though the key to them is short term gratification.

However, there is no way that will ever work in a long term relationship. It’s the only foundation that works for a long term relationship is trust. So, that’s something that home builders really, really have to focus on. Open communication, mutual expectations, setting the right expectations to the customer of what we’re going to do, but also setting the right expectations of what we expect of the customer. Building that trust all the way through the relationship. That’s a huge part of our success formula in the home building industry.

Good, good stuff. Well, give out your websites and tell people where they can get your books, Richard.

Well, I have three websites, actually. There’s There’s and then there’s

Perfect. By the way, I just want to ask you before you go, your latest Tough Conventions with the Heart of Jesus, tell us about the biblical perspective on this and it’s an interesting title, so I wanted to hear more about that real quickly.

Well, the biblical perspective is like if I’m using Jesus as the role model. His concern with other people above himself. That was the theme throughout his ministry. He, you know, whether it was washing the feet of his disciplines or whether it was dying on the cross, the theme of his ministry was putting others above himself and, again, focusing on the needs, well being, and dignity of the other person above himself. He lived his entire life that way, did his entire ministry that way.

So, the idea of Tough Conversations with the Heart of Jesus was actually, that was the foundation of some of the comments I was making earlier. The selflessness really is the position of strength. He maintained a tremendous position of strength and has for thousands of years because he was a leader that people wanted to follow and it was because he took them seriously, he had a sincere interesting in them and in their well being and he always wanted to leave a person better off after an encounter with him than they were before, so that’s why I believe his ministry resonates so closely with the concept of tough conventions. Plus, he had to have many tough conversations himself and the way he handled them.

Sure did. No question about it. Well, good stuff. Richard Tiller, thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you, Jason. I appreciate you asking me on to your show.