Earlier this week, I received an email informing me that I’d be part of a team introducing staff to Crucial Conversations concepts. A part of me said, “See? You blabbed about trying to apply this in your life and someone listened.” The problem is, I’m not an expert at it. If I had to rate myself, I’d say I’m at Rank: Beginner.
Of course, I don’t want to play the part of a reluctant Moses here. What? You’re not familiar with that timid Moses, who when God asked him to speak, he tried to bow out a few times? Well, that’s who I identify with (which is quite ironic since I am occasionally called upon to keynote):
Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
Often straight talk is exactly what IS lacking in much of what we do in schools. I often think poor teachers don’t hear that they ARE poor because we don’t want to call down the wrath of union or legal representation (depending on the State of the Union you work in).
Probably the one group of people that get straight talk are campus principals. Not only do they have to engage in straight talk that is “velvet,” they have to endure it when their campus fails to measure up.
Another more important reason for Crucial Conversations is the need to avoid conspiracies of silence. Have you worked in organizations where people were afraid to speak up, to share what the issues were?
“Why was there almost a conspiracy of silence?” John R. Kimberly, a Wharton management professor, asks of these scandals and others like them. “Why do we behave in ways that are inconsistent with our articulated beliefs?” He wonders why people with integrity behave differently within an organization than they would on their own.
In hindsight, especially to observers, it is clear what should have been done. Yet in case after case,
Companies overlook internal problems. Well, school districts do it, too. I recall with some interest when someone said to me, “Miguel, John didn’t say anything about this during the meeting because he was afraid of what Junie might say.”
“You mean,” I responded incredulously, “he was afraid to say something?”
Aghast, I realized that I was still grateful for this insight. I’ve made it a point of encouraging my team to speak up, to ask themselves, “What is it that you’ve noticed, observed but hadn’t thought to bring up or maybe were unsure about bringing up for discussion?” I try to incorporate this into every meeting because this kind of conversation is absolutely crucial to finding out what you don’t know about to even ask about.
Some of my favorite ideas from the two books, Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations, include these:
- “Each of us enters conversations with our own opinions, feelings, theories, and experiences about the topic at hand. This unique combination of thoughts and feelings makes up our personal pool of meaning. This pool not only informs us but also propels our ever action.”
- “When two or more of us enter crucial conversations, by definition we don’t share the same pool. Our opinions differ. I believe one thing, you another. I have one history, you another.”
- “People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool—even ideas that at first glance appear controversial, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs. Now, obviously they don’t agree with every idea; they simply do their best to ensure that all ideas find their way into the open. The time you spend up front establishing a shared pool of meaning is more than paid for by faster, more committed action later on.”
- Content-what happened;
- Pattern- what has been happening over time;
- Relationship – What’s happening to us. The issue is not that other people have disappointed you repeatedly; it’s that the string of disappointments has caused you to lose trust in them. “This is starting to put a strain on how we work together. I feel like I have to nag you to keep you in line and I don’t like doing that. I guess my fear is that I can’t trust you to keep the agreements you make.”
- People feel unsafe when they believe one of two things: a) You don’t respect them as a human being (you lack mutual respect); b) You don’t care about their goals (you lack mutual purpose).
- Contrasting: To deal with predictable misinterpretation when discussing a problem with another person, take these steps: 1) Imagine what others might erroneously conclude; 2) Immediately explain that this is what you don’t mean; 3) Explain what you do mean.
- AMPP =
- Ask to get the conversation rolling;
- Mirror to Encourage;
- Paraphrase for understanding;
- Prime to make it safe for the other person to open up.
Contrasting, Who will do What by When (and following up), CPR, finding and solutions really help tongue-tied Moses type leaders get past their insecurities.
As a person responsible for others, I try to implement these strategies in my work. I know that my success rate is low, but sometimes, I imagine that they know that I’m working to achieve these principles (i’ve been transparent about it, much to my chagrin now that I get to share them with others).
One of the challenging observations, though, is that I don’t think others necessarily see the value of CCs in their work. And, I don’t want to be cast in the role of a sales person trying to push these ideas. Rather, I want to simply share my experiences and invite others to consider CCs in their lives and work.
Check out Miguel’s Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com