Sunday, December 14, 2008

Conversations

Having conversations is something we enjoy and is an integral part of who we are. We have conversations almost anytime and anywhere.

To progress on projects, organizational and technology changes, and family decisions, having effective conversations is absolutely necessary. Practically anything that we want to achieve is dependent on having one or several conversations.

However, if the topics are important, there are differences of opinions, we have past experiences crafting our thoughts, and we are emotional, having conversations with people we work with, live with, and care for can be very tough, taxing, emotional, and stressful. When we are passionate, emotional, and pressured about some topics, we often don't listen well, nor do we communicate our own objectives well. By improving our individual and group conversations we hope to achieve personal, professional, and organizational goals. 

Last week I discussed some of the approaches given in the two books, Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler and Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott via a web conference. My presentation as part the web conference review the two books are:

Slide 1: How this session came about: In the Leadership SIG meeting, we were discussing opportunities and needs for professional development when someone mentioned a persistent, consistent problem that she was having with an employee. I don’t remember what the problem was, but my thoughts, at the time, were that the problem was not going to be solved by one professional development session. Rather the problem has deepened through time and that the problem now affected the productivity of the department. The problem was not one that will be solved with with an easy supervisor to subordinate discussion.

As Susan Scott says in Fierce Conversations, “You got here—wherever ‘here’ is—one conversation at a time. Allow the changes needed at home or at work to reveal themselves one conversation at a time.”

Slide 2: Crucial Conversations is a 10 step process for engaging in conversations that are high stakes, high emotion, and opposing views. The idea behind having crucial conversations is that we should be able meet goals. Having needed conversations does not mean that we roll over. In fact, one premise of crucial conversation is that we look for higher goals –higher than your personal goals and higher than others’ personal goals because compromise is not really acceptable. Neither party wins with a compromise.

Slide 3: Susan Scott in Fierce Conversations encourages us to have fierce conversations that are intense, powerful, passionate, and authentic. Fierce does not mean cruel or threatening. Solving consistent, persistent problems will take having one conversation at a time.

Slide 4: Having effective conversations is synonymous of pulling weeds up from the roots rather than cutting weeds at the stem. 

Slide 5: Hang on because not having effective conversations can mean:

  • Future conversations are more difficult
  • Costs increase
  • Problems manifest
  • Risks increase

Slide 6: Goals for conversations

  • More funding alternatives
  • Better ideas
  • Better teamwork
  • Fewer mistakes
  • More solutions
  • Better relationships

Slide 7: Fierce Purposes of a confrontation

  • Interrogate reality
  • Provoke learning
  • Tackle tough issues
  • Enrich relationships

Reality changes—market, economies, strategies, our spouses , children, and ourselves.

As we drill down by interrogating changes, we learn. Susan Scott describes us as having Mineral Rights: Dig deep in one place rather than digging shallow in lots of places. If you are successful at asking, learning, and tackling tough issues, then the relationships will be better. An example of labeling which is a form of violence.

Slide 8: Fierce: The conversation is the relationship.

            Crucial: Conversations can violent or silent.

Slide 9: Fierce: Good silence—let there be space.

Space between thoughts where less is more. The good silence—the space between thoughts and in the conversation gives the conversation time to breathe.

Slide 10 & 11: Crucial Conversations

  • Get unstuck: Identify where you are stuck.
  • Start with the heart: Work on me; what is it that I really want.
  • Learn to look: Learn to recognize when the conversation has become crucial: violent or silent. The behavior of you and who you are in dialogue with.
  • Make it safe for others to talk about anything. Create a dialogue that shows and develops mutual respect and mutual purpose.
  • Master my stories by understanding you are the one in control of your emotions…not anyone else. Separate facts from “stories”. Watch when you or others justify behavior by telling stories of being a victim, villain, or helpless. My favorite quote in this section is “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?”
  • State my path: Share your facts, tell your story, ask for others paths, talk tentatively and encourage testing.
  • Explore others’ path: Ask to get things rolling, mirror confirmed feelings, paraphrase, and prime the person when the conversation has stopped.
  • Move to action: Decide who, when, and how.

Slide 12 & 13: Fierce Conversations

  • Master the courage to interrogate reality: Question reality.
  • Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real: Become authentic.
  • Be here, prepared to be nowhere else: be here—attentive, listen, learn.
  • Tackle your toughest challenge today .
  • Obey your instincts: A careful conversation is a failed conversation.
  • Take responsibility for your emotional wake: An emotional wake is what you remember after I’m gone. What you feel, the aftermath, the aftertaste, or the afterglow. Learn to deliver the message without the load.
  • Let silence do the heavy lifting: Silence makes us nervous. So do innovation, change, and genius. Silence can provoke learning, thoughts.

Slide 14: Crucial: What am I acting like I want right now? What do I really want?

Slide 15: Fierce: If you knew -- what is it that you don’t know? What are you pretending not to know?

Slide 16: Fierce: You have to get at ground truth before you can turn anything around. 

Slide 17: Fierce: “I take the high road” is often an excuse for not tackling the issue.

              Crucial: Avoidance is type of silence.

Slide 18: Crucial: Few, if any, forces in human affairs are as powerful as shared vision. Find mutual purpose.

Slide 19: Crucial: If you don’t first change your heart, any efforts to change your actions are likely to be insincere, shallow, & doomed to failure. We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.

Slide 20: Fierce: While no single conversation is guaranteed to change...a career, company, or relationship. Any single conversation can.

More information on Fierce Conversations can be found on the Fierce Inc web site.

More information on Crucial Conversations can be found on the Vital Smarts web site.

Please fee free to listen to the web conference.

Conversations
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