Workshop presented at New England Campus Sustainability Forum in Boston, MA on September 20, 2013. This workshop focused on constructive conversations and applying systems thinking through mind-mapping.
Strengthening Relationships by Removing Blame: Constructive Relationships with Difficult Stakeholders
Strengthening Relationships by
Constructive Relationships with Difficult Stakeholders
This Morning’s Facilitators
Sustainability Program Manager
Mieko A. Ozeki
Sustainability Projects Coordinator
University of Vermont
The sustainability officers challenge...strategically addressing the
chaos of implementing initiatives on our campuses and
strengthening relationships with constituents without spiraling
● Practice developing strategic mind maps with a 30,000 foot perspective
on issues you are working on at your campus.
● Walk out with a starter “playbook” for addressing specific issues,
campaigns, etc. and stakeholder relationships.
● Practice having a constructive conversation and strategizing how to
develop a constructive relationship for future collaborations.
Your participation in this workshop will help you walk out with new
tools for your sustainability tool box. It also requires….
Strategic Mapping of Issues
The intent is to look at issues,
relationships, etc. from 30,000
foot view by identifying
opportunities, barriers, key
stakeholders, etc. through the
process of mindmapping. Also
called network mapping.
Mindmapping is the process of
visually presenting information
via a diagram.
Mindmapping is a tool that
conceptually associated with the
process of systems thinking.
Example: Hydration Hydra Map
Translated into a To-Do List
Mind Map Activity
① Spend 2-minutes each identifying a
pressing issue, problem, etc. you are
about to or currently engaged in.
With partners (groups of 2):
o Summarize the issue into a single
word or succinct term.
With Post-it notes, put your single
word in the center of your map
work space. (Note: Your workspace
can be at a table or wall)
Discuss with your partner the issue
for 8-minutes: identifying key
concepts, people, logistics, barriers,
Your partner will listen and write
on Post-it notes a phrase, idea,
opportunity, relationship they hear
as you work through the problem.
One term per Post-it note.
④ For the next 5-minutes, start
to put together a rough draft of
a map with your post-it notes.
Total time for activity: 20 minutes
⑤ Switch roles and repeat Steps 14 with other partner.
= Node, a concept
associated with central
= Branch, connects
one node related to
Record your maps
Take a picture or draw out
the map you developed.
You can take your map and
draft it on a program such
as Mindjet Mind Manager,
Mindnode, or other online
Create to-do lists or action
plans based on your map.
Being an effective communicator is essential in
our roles as change agents.
Difficult conversations that challenge our
identity can feel like a direct hit.
Take a learning stance
Check Your Purpose
Start from the Third Story
Explore Their Story and Yours
• Example situation
• Reflect on a personal experience
• With a partner, "coach” each other through a
o This is not easy
o Important to be supportive coaches
o Important to be honest and vulnerable
Preparation: Describe What Happened
What happened? Recognizing it is your
description of the event not others.
Sam the Student
• Hired Sam a passionate, very likeable student
• We had a few great weeks of work
Sam missed a few deadlines
Delayed response to no response to my emails
Stopped dropping by the office to check-in
Preparation: Take a learning stance.
What impact has this situation had on
What does this situation say about
who I am? My identity?
What might their intentions have
What did we each contribute to this
Preparation: Check Your Purpose.
What do you hope to accomplish?
Is this the best way to address the
If you don’t raise it, what could you do
to let it go?
Action: Start from the Third Story
Share your purpose and your goals.
Describe the problem as the
difference between both stories.
Ask to sort out the situation together.
Action: Explore Both Stories
Truth to Perspective
Blame to Contribution
Accusations to Feelings
Listen to understand their
perspective. Ask questions.
Acknowledge their feelings and
Action: Problem Solving
Invent options that meet each sides
important concerns and interests.
Look to standards for what should
Ask how you can both keep
communication open going
Difficult Conversation Activity
• Reflect on a conversation you have been
avoiding because you know it will be a
o 2 min
• With a partner use the “Coaching Key”
worksheet to share each others experience.
o 8 min each
o Be honest. There is great value in understanding your
Reflections on workshop and moving
forward, utilizing these tools.
Reference and Tools
Stone, Patton, & Heen (2000) Difficult
Buzan, T. (1996) The Mind Map Book:
How to Use Radiant Thinking to
Maximize Your Brain's Untapped