Should I stay or should I grow?.read more
Do you work for a not so great leader?.read more
Thank goodness it's Monday.read more
Don't Blame Your Culture.read more
Employee Engagement Update.read more
Trust – the one thing that changes everything!.read more
Crucial Conversations.read more
How would you rate your interactions with others?.read more
Is there a “silver bullet” when it comes to developing a high performing, productive and happy team? It’s a question I am often asked when training or consulting.
Unfortunately the short answer is no. A great team has members with a combination of emotional intelligence, self-awareness, relevant skills and abilities, and a high level of trust. The team would be productive, devoid of interpersonal conflict and infighting, would have functional interactions with others, and would successfully accomplish tasks and goals.
Integral to these elements is the ability to communicate effectively. Obviously not all communication is agreeable, and it is the skill to turn conflicting approaches into constructive dialogue that creates a great team.
As a result, tough issues will require crucial conversations. In the book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler (McGraw Hill, 2002), the authors note that a casual conversation can become crucial quickly and often surprisingly. They define a crucial conversation as a discussion between two or more people where:
- the stakes are high
- opinions vary
- emotions run strong
Unfortunately, it's human nature to back away from discussions we fear will hurt us or make things worse. We can be masters of avoiding these tough conversations. On the flip side we may take an aggressive approach that can cause more harm than good.
The authors identify their “silver bullet”, or the one thing they believe matters most in our interactions with others, which is:
“When it comes to risky, controversial, and emotional conversations, skilled people find a way to get all the relevant information (from themselves and others) out into the open. That’s it! At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information”
This book also presents exercises to help you keep a cool head, communicate clearly and get things done, despite our evolutionary tendency to ‘fight or flight’.
Frequently, people don’t feel safe voicing their concerns when an initiative is sponsored by someone in a position of power. One way to encourage people to begin talking about difficult issues is to point out that a culture of silence exists.
Sincerely invite people to share their concerns. You might also want to try playing devil’s advocate: disagree with your own position to encourage dialogue. This helps others see that you’re open to feedback and opposing views. When people feel safe, they will talk more freely and honestly.
Before you approach a crucial conversation, try to recognise the difference between the facts and the stories you’re telling yourself about the situation or about the people in it. Facts are things that we can see, hear, or otherwise observe. Stories are the conclusions we draw about the facts, linked by assumptions and opinions.
The best communicators step up to crucial conversations and establish mutual purpose by backtracking from differences and seeking common ground. What is it that we both can agree on? While you may differ in tactics, you can agree on purpose: You both want what’s best for the organisation and those involved. Once you identify the mutual purpose, you can build a common strategy to achieve it.
Crucial Conversations is an insightful book because although it acknowledges our initial instincts may be to ‘fight or flight’ when handling crucial conversations, more civilised and constructive methods can be learned.
To talk calmly while discussing a highly emotional subject and to get all of the information on the table is one of the most important skills to develop.
People Development Australia’s Top 5 Tips for Crucial Conversations:
- Make it safe – successful dialogue results when everyone feels safe enough to add their meaning to the conversation (see our next newsletter on the elements of trust)
- Become more self-aware of the strategies you use to get your own way eg; silence or violence?
- Become more aware of other behaviour styles and how you interact as a response to these styles
- Become a better communicator – explore how you listen and receive information and what sort of feedback you give in the communication process
- Practice assertive communications (I See, I Feel, I Want)
Win a copy of Crucial Conversations
What are your tips for handling crucial conversations? What is your best example handling a crucial conversation? What communication skills need to be present in a crucial conversation?
The first four people to comment on our LinkedIn Discussion Page will receive a free copy of Crucial Conversations.
Don’t have LinkedIn? Drop us your tips/comments on our Contact Us page on the PDA website