One of the best books I’ve read in the last ten years, is a great look at communications, from four great minds who collaborated to write Crucial Conversations. Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler decided to write a book for those of us who struggle to speak our minds when it’s clear the stakes are high. I couldn’t help but think how different my life and career might have gone had I read this book twenty years ago. Sadly, the book was written back in 2002 and I failed to discover it until 2013.
The premise of the book is that crucial conversations come out of nowhere and often put us into a situation where we are forced to have a high stakes conversation where people are in general disagreement and we’re not really well prepared. Sound familiar? It did for me, it was the story of my life over the last 10-20 years in corporate America. When we’re feeling unprepared for these conversations we often shrink from them by withdrawing into silence, or we feel threatened and begin to lash out with intensity that feels violent to the colleagues we’re conversing with. Because we’re not well prepared, we botch the opportunity to excel in these conversations, far too often. Because we’re not well prepared, we either run from these conversations, or we expose our lack of emotional intelligence and damage our credibility.
The authors posit that we need to develop skills and experience in choosing to engage in dialogue rather than debate, if we wish to master crucial conversations. By being humble, but helpful, we can throw great ideas into an imaginary “shared pool” of concepts and mutual understanding. As we do, we need to monitor others to check on whether the whole assembled group is trusting one another enough to safely express themselves. The book provides excellent examples of how to think, feel, and act; and while it does, it paves a path to summoning the courage to speak your mind without feeling disloyal or disruptive. Along the path, we are likely to find dialogue rather than debate, and add to the conversation our best thinking. With practice, we become capable conversationalists, and avoid botching the golden opportunity to build a collegial understanding that leads the team to greater outcomes. Bluntly, we need to seize these conversational opportunities to put our best foot forward, but too often, we let fear shrink our resolve.
It’s been about three years since picking up this gold mine of great ideas, and the number of crucial conversations that I’ve been personally involved in and heard about in my role as an executive business coach is now in the thousands. I have personally fared much better than previously when crucial conversations have presented themselves to me. Likewise, my clients have found themselves engaged in conversations where they comfortably added their greatest ideas and opinions to the conversation, where a few years ago they might have resorted to silence and sat on the sidelines, missing an important conversation. Do yourself a favor, and check out this great book, it’s a classic! It’s almost as good as listening to the late great Eric Clapton play his Stratocaster on “Old Love” or “Little Queen Of Spades.” Some things are just too good to pass up. Take advantage of this opportunity! Have an amazing day!
Michael is an award winning Executive Development expert and Business Advisor in Minnesota, where he specializes in working with CEOs, their leadership teams, and their emerging leaders to build multi-layered leadership teams that feature tight cohesion and a crystal clear focus on the organization’s objectives. Michael is hosting a workshop on behavior analysis at his office in Prior Lake this coming January. Space in the workshop is limited, so let us know if you’d like a seat in this four-hour workshop before they’re gone by simply emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The workshop will help you to develop a high level of self-awareness and social awareness, and to find creative strategies to work with your colleagues without the boxing gloves! Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting, “Delivering Ambitious Results!”