Exploring the Confrontation Model


For fun, I decided to give Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations The Confrontation Model another look and try for the purposes of this blog entry. The Confrontation Model is meant to accomplish the following:

…confront tough issues with courage, compassion, and skill. Learning is provoked and relationships are enriched.

One of the challenges in any large district–or small one–is ensuring communications that get things done actually happen. It’s easy to have a meeting or conversation where everyone agrees that things are going well, then wham, everyone wonders why things have gone to heck in a handbasket.
Susan’s Model is meant to have those conversations that resolve issues and keep us all moving forward. Confronting tough issues is a fact of life, which M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Travelled, as “life is difficult.” Susan shares the model in this way:

Opening Statement: Write your opening statement and practice saying it out loud, in sixty seconds or less. Your opening statement should:

  1. Name the issue.
  2. Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior or situation you want to change.
  3. Describe your emotions about this issue.
  4. Clarify what is at stake.
  5. Identify your contribution to this problem.
  6. Indicate your wish to resolve the issue.
  7. Invite your partner to respond.
  8. Interaction-Inquire into your partner’s view. Use paraphrasing and a perception check…dig for full understanding.
  9. Resolution-What have we learned? Where are we now? How can we move forward from here, given our new understanding?
  10. Make a new agreement and determine how you will hold each other responsible for keeping it.
Although this is obviously intended to be a conversation, I thought I’d reflect–perhaps poorly implementing the Model in the process–and try to craft a scenario I’ve seen all too often in school districts.
  1. Name the issue. Instructional Technology remains out of touch in regards to curriculum issues, such as representing technology for instructional software or web-based services for use at the campus level.
  2. Select a specific example. An example of this is the acquisition of the Palm Handheld Reading Assessment software. The decision was made to purchase it some time ago, but the Technology Dept has only just now found out about it, 1 month prior to district-wide implementation.

    In fact, we’ve seen several examples–after the fact–of a vendor showing the Superintendent or the Deputy Superintendent a great product, then that product vendor is referred to an assistant superintendent and the underlying message sent is that this product has the Superintendent’s approval, when that might not be the case. At what point does the referring Superintendent end the ambiguity of the referral and say, “Implement this” OR “This is for your review and decision as to how to proceed.”

  3. Describe your emotions about this issue. As director of Instructional Technology Services, I’m not quite sure how I should react to this. On the one hand, I’m expected to serve as your representative in regards to technology-related C&I purchases, but on the other the effect of none to few conversations about C&I’s plans for the future–even as immediate as this short timeline for district implementation–put me in an awkward position.

    Should I be more “in the face” with C&I’s Assistant Superintendent about trying to ensure more open and transparent communications? And, unless the Superintendent clarifies the ambiguous nature of the vendor referral, why should C&I bother to consult with a director when they have a Superintendent mandate–perceived or actual–to “get it done?

  4. Clarify what is at stake. Let’s review what is at stake. If the District is going to jump in with major software and web-based services, lack of communication with the Technology Department jeopardizes implementation. Since the Technology Deparment is here to provide support, assistance, and guidance on major purchases, it is critical that C&I and Technology communicate.
  5. Identify your contribution to this problem. In considering what role I play in this process, it’s clear to me that maybe I’m the wrong person to serve as go-between. As a Director, I’m called upon to implement and make recommendations as to solutions, to take decisive action when empowered to do so. If I am called to constantly advise Curriculum and Instruction that their major software purchase isn’t going to work, I’m not surprised that they are disinclined to listen.

    On the other hand, perhaps, I am the problem. Perhaps, they would rather have someone else as liason than me because I have given offense or been deemed untrustworthy or unreliable, or whatever. If that is the case, then I humbly offer my apologies. I feel terrible that the District steps into the pothole each time it attempts to implement without Technology Department support.

  6. Indicate your wish to resolve the issue. It is in the best interest of the District–failed implementations consume large sums of money, both in capital outlay/supplies, and staff time–to resolve this lack of communication. I want to be a part of the solution but I cannot be that until someone tells me what is going on and what role they would like me to play.
  7. Invite your partner to respond. I invite the stakeholders–[names go here]–in this situation to advise us.
Again, this references a fictional account from my perspective that depicts a particular issue districts have. Obviously, steps 8-10 aren’t described here…so, I’d like to invite you to imagine what steps 8-10 would look like in YOUR district. One last thing about this example…it’s on a blog. It needs to be spoken aloud. Susan Scott shares this tidbit:

Don’t try to have important conversations via e-mail. The most powerful communications technology any of us will ever have is eye contact. The next is voice. Dead last is words on a page or a screen.
Read More

In the meantime, here’s a nifty blog entry detailing a keynote Susan Scott gave. It’s a great read.


Note: This is “oldy but goody” blog entry that I originally wrote May 1, 2008. Wow.





Check out Miguel’s Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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