What crucial conversation
have you been avoiding?
0 At each table, take 1 minute to identify a crucial
conversation that you have been avoiding.
0 Without breaking confidences, please share very
briefly what conversation you have been dodging.
20 years of research on over
100,000 people reveals:
0 THE key skill of effective leaders, parents, loved
0…the capacity to skillfully address
emotionally and politically risky
What’s a Crucial
A conversation between 2 people when…
1. The stakes are high
2. Opinions vary
3. Emotions run strong
Years of genetic shaping have driven us to flying
fists and fleet feet… not intelligent persuasion and
The “Crucial Conversation” claim
0 At the heart of ALL chronic problems in organizations,
teams and relationships – lies “crucial conversations”
0 Mastering the Art will
0 Kick start your career
0 Improve your organizations
0 Improve your relationships
0 Improve your personal health
Research cited… by authors
0 Companies who have mastered the art of crucial
0 Respond 5 times faster to financial downturns
0 2/3rds more likely to avoid injury or death due to
0 Save $1,500 AND an 8 hour workday for every crucial
conversation held rather than avoided
0 Substantially increase trust and reduce costs in virtual
0 Influence changes in colleagues who bullying, conniving,
dishonest, or incompetent
It is NOT simply…
However… It IS…
0 Holding each other accountability through having
effective “Crucial,” “Difficult,” or “Hard”
The great news?
0 These skills are learnable….
Start with the heart
0 Keeping the Peace
0 Sometimes we choose personal safety – we go to
submission or silence as a way of keeping the peace. The
underlying issues are never explored.
What do I really want?
0 For myself
0 For others?
0 For the relationship?
0 Refuse the “fools choice”
0 We sometimes assume that we must choose between
getting results and keeping the relationship
0 How can we achieve BOTH?
Watch for conditions…
0 Silence – any act to withhold meaning from the
0 Masking (sugarcoating, sarcasm, couching…)
0 Avoiding (changing the subject…)
0 Withdrawing (leaving the conversation or the room…)
0 Controlling (coercion, cutting them off, overstating…)
0 Labeling (dismissing someone’s ideas from a
0 Attacking (threatening, name calling…)
What’s your style under stress…?
0 Stress Test
“What do you do when the talking turns tough?”
Why do we avoid hard
conversations? (Jennifer Abrams)
As a cultural norm, educators are noted for avoiding
1. A desire to please
0 “I want people to like me.”
0 “I don’t want to look mean.”
0 Educators are nurturers. Mostly.
2. Personal Safety
0 “My colleague is aggressive and scary”
0 “I don’t want the pain and agony”
0 “I don’t like tears or anger…makes me uncomfortable”
3. Personal Comfort
0 “Confronting this will take too much work.”
0 “I don’t want to make waves.”
4. Fear of the unknown
0 The number one value of educators is “stability”
0 Educators will put up with stomach distress,
headaches, insomnia and many other ailments –
rather than deal with the unknown….
5. No sense of urgency
0 “I will wait until it happens again…”
0 The third times the charm… then I’ll address it.”
0 Remember – if physical safety, emotional safety, or
educationally unsound practices… etc. are involved –
it’s best to move with more urgency.
6. I don’t fit in here!
0 The culture here does not meet things head on … why
7. Waiting for the perfect
0 “I cant talk to her until I know more about it…”
0 “I can’t talk to him until I have the perfect words”
9. Distrust on oneself or
0 “I don’t trust my gut instinct”
0 “ I might be too sensitive”
10. Lack of authority
0 “Who am I to bring it up…I’m not in charge…”
11. Distrusting our own
0 “Who am I to tell someone else how they ought to do
12. Fear of kicking someone
else when they are down
0 “This will overwhelm him and he’s got enough
problems as it is.”
13. Too big a shift in role
0 Instructional coaches or new supervisors may find the
role change to be uncomfortable. Confronting peers
or employees without training or experience may be
14. This wasn’t in my job
0 “I just assumed most people knew the right thing to
do. I didn’t know I had to deal with all these things.”
15. Too close to home
0 “This is a small town. Everyone knows each other. I
need to keep this relationship as it is.”
16. Conflict with beliefs or
0 “I don’t agree with the decision on this anyway, why
should I confront someone over it!”
0 “I don’t have the energy to take this on!”
18. Personality or intent
0 “She is really a nice person – I hate to confront her on
0 “I am sure she didn’t mean it that way!”
0 We feel personally guilty for not addressing it….
0 We feel fraudulent…as if we are not in the world as we really are”
0 We give control or power to the other person…
0 “It looks to others like we condone their behavior”
0 We don’t live up to our principles…
0 “We feel like a hypocrite”
0We allow the organization (students, staff, parents,
employees…) to experience negative consequences.
0 “Kids and adults get hurt, or don’t receive benefits they should”
1. Will the problem fix itself?
2. Does it need to be addressed now?
3. Am I in the right frame of mind now?
4. Is this the right time for the other person?
5. Do I have enough information now?
6. Do I prioritize this over other conversations?
1. What’s the best and worst that could happen?
2. What is the ripple effect?
3. Do negatives out weigh the positives?
4. Who might need to know before I talk to the person?
Likelihood of Success
1. If I bring this up do I have an action plan? A
2. How promising are the hoped-for results?
0 Are there other alternatives with less risk?
0 Has this person had the opportunity to recognize the
issue on their own?
0 If I speak up will it move me closer to my goal or
Consequences for failure
0What is the worst that could happen and how likely is
0 Will this be seen as only my issue?
0 Do I model the behavior I am looking for?
0 How do my beliefs guide me to think this way and
would other beliefs alter my thinking?
0 Is the solution I am proposing possible for this
individual to accomplish or learn?
0 If I bring up the concern is there time to deal with it?
The steps to moving forward
with a difficult conversation
0 What is the presenting problem?
0In a concise statement describe the problem.
0 Example – My colleague does not come to collaborative meetings
0 What is the tentative outcome?
0 Example – My colleague will come to collaborative meetings regularly.
What are the desired behaviors?
0 Colleague will attend planned meetings
0 Colleague will be on time and prepared
0 Colleague will let others know if they cannot be there
0 Colleague will share the work equally
What knowledge, skills, dispositions or attitudes does this
person need to meet the desired outcome?
0 To be aware of the impact on others when she’s late
0 To believe that she has an adult professional role with
colleagues not just as a teacher of students
0 To believe she can benefit from the meetings
What strategies can you use to promote this person’s
0Be sure she knows her job description includes attending
0Plan ways to make the meetings more relevant for her
0Makes sure minutes of the meetings reflect everyone’s
What resources do you need for a successful outcome?
External - Do you need books, funds, schedules or approval
from someone else?
Internal – Be able to verbalize the impact on the team and
speak without crying, chickening out or getting overly
Scripting the conversation
0 Step 1: Setting the tone: and purpose
0 You must scale your tone and your non-verbals in
relation to the seriousness of the conversation.
0 The other person must understand the level of intensity
the conversation requires YET you don’t want to show
more emotion than is necessary.
0 Step 2: Get to the point and name it professionally:
0 As you name the issue “present the problem” from your
0 Avoid trigger words (“lazy, chaotic, …)
0 Use professional language that is not judgmental
0 Step 3: Give specific examples:
0 Use the most current examples first
0 Don’t give too many at once
0 Step 4: Describe the effect on the school, students,
parents, colleagues, etc.
0 Explain the impact…
0 Step 5: State your desire to resolve the issue and open
0 End your opening statements by stating the change you
would like to see take place and then open by asking
0How do you see it?
0How do you feel?
0What are your thoughts?
0DO you see this differently?
0 One method is to write a draft summary of the
meeting in post tense BEFORE the meeting takes
0 Place it in a drawer
0 Conduct the meeting following your script
0 After the meeting, revise the summary to reflect what
Preparing the logistics
0 Initiating contact
0 No cryptic voice messages or emails
0 Find a private place and time (remember – the more serious
the discussion the more formal the setting)
0 Think about timing. (Do they have to teach after this
0 Body Language
0 Voice: “credible voice” of authority goes down, “approachable
voice” goes up at the end of sentences
0 Hands: palms down is business, palms up gives listener an
0 Eyes: Not looking means hesitation, too much looking may be
too imposing. Consider culture and context.
Supervisor role plays for
setting the tone
Level 1: Investigation
Level 2. Verbal reprimand
Level 3. Written reprimand
Level 4. Termination
Level 1. Parent complaint that a teacher handled a child
Level 4. Termination of teacher for inappropriate
Facebook interaction with students.