Crucial Conversations

I have been reading a book that was recommended reading from last summer’s CliftonStrengths Summit: Crucial Conversations.

How many times have you gotten wrapped up in, turned around, left out of or ended up feeling any number of negative emotions because an important conversation went poorly? Thankfully, for me this doesn’t happen a lot. But, when it does happen, it does not go well.

Let’s start with what a crucial conversation is. A crucial conversation happens when:

  1. The stakes are high
  2. Opinions vary
  3. Emotions are strong.

While I don’t want to go into the entire book in this blog post, I do want to cover this idea of catching a conversation as it turns from a normal to a crucial conversation. Since you can only directly impact your part of the conversation, the place to start is with yourself. The authors draw a connection to first-aid. If you recognize a cut when it is small, if treated early, it can heal easily. However, if it is not treated and becomes infected, it can take a much longer time to heal. The sooner you recognize a conversation is not going well, the easier it is to right the conversation. Of course.

The idea then is to be able to recognize when a conversation turns crucial at the beginning. There are three ways you might find yourself reacting:

  1. Physical signals – there is physical change in your body (stomach clenches, eyes tighten, short breathing)
  2. Emotional signals – emotions start to surface that give you a clue you are feeling under stress (anger, frustration, fear, etc…)
  3. Behavioral signals – you start seeing your body reacting negatively to the conversation (voice raised, aggressively pointing fingers)

There is a short quiz in the book that helps you identify they way you react to crucial conversations under stress. There are two main categories: Silence and Violence.

  • Silence – you prefer to walk away from a conversation (there are many ways to do this).
  • Violence – you try to force your view upon others (again, many ways this happens).

I took the short quiz in the book to help identify how I react when conversations turn crucial. It turns out I react in two somewhat contradictory ways: I withdraw or I try to control.

  • Withdrawing – you chose to pull out of the conversation altogether
  • Controlling – you try to push/pull others to your viewpoint.

The whole point of this book is for you to develop the skills you need to be able to have any conversation, at any time, anywhere. I want that for myself and I would like to be able to help others as a coach do this too. So, I did some deep dive thinking into how I can recognize in myself when conversations turn crucial. I think the biggest thing I notice is my breathing gets shallow. If I can do quick first-aid and take deep breaths as soon as I notice my chest is tight and I am not breathing deeply, I can begin the process of turning a crucial conversation around to a positive direction.

What are your own cues that you are heading into a crucial conversation? And what can you do to turn things around at the beginning?

Pivoting from “Yes, but…”

How many times have you been a part of a conversation that starts with a compliment of some sort and ends with the a phrase that included the word “but?” If you are like me this has happened to you many times. And at the end of the “but” statement you feel like the compliment just evaporated. Likely you felt like this raccoon searching for his dissolved cotton candy. Where did that compliment go? It was just here.

I have been reading the book, Yes, And by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton. The authors have many great points in the book, but the one I want to write about here is the pivot from “Yes, but” to Yes, and.” When you use the “Yes, but” statement you effectively say “no.” There may be a reason to say no, but likely there are also many reasons to say yes. Pivoting to “Yes, and” can:

  • Lead to creative problem solving
  • Create better learning environments
  • Help people feel heard in general and more specifically in contentious conversations.

Let’s take an example. You are having a conversation with your boss. In the “Yes, but” world it sounds like this:

You: I came across this great new marketing tool. We could use it at the big fair we have coming in in the fall to promote product X.

Boss: Yes, that sounds like a great idea, but we don’t have the money in the budget.

Did you hear the shut down that happened there? Did you feel the “great idea” slip away? Let’s try again, this time using “Yes, and.”

You: I came across this great new marketing tool. We could use it at the big fair we have coming in in the fall to promote product X.

Boss: Yes, that sounds like a great idea! Can you pull together some information on how much it will cost and what we can expect our return on investment to be? We don’t have new money on the budget and maybe we can find an opportunity to move money around.

Do you feel better about this conversation? I do. In truth, maybe the new marketing product won’t work out for the fall fair. However, when you pivot to “Yes, and” you signal to the other person that:

  • You heard them
  • You also give the other person the opportunity to provide you with what you need (information to back up the purchase)
  • And if you make an informed decision to not purchase this new marketing tool, your employee knows why.
  • And, you have created an environment where your employees are looking out for ideas that will help your business AND will share them with you in the future!

How will you adopt this pivot from “Yes, but” to Yes, and”?

2018 CliftonStrengths Summit

2018 SummitI have been back almost a week from the 2018 CliftonStrengths Summit. This is the annual conference put on by Gallup for people who work with the CliftonStrengths assessment. It was the first time I had attended and turned out to be the most important conference I have ever attended. In addition to attending the conference, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Advanced Coaching course before the conference began. And Omaha, Nebraska was a nice place to visit. I had the best hamburger of my life at Block 16. I enjoyed many flavors of ice cream at Ted and Wally’s. The most unusual flavor I had was Bourbon Caramel Apple Rib (Yes, there were bits of rib in the ice cream. Yes, it was delish!).

Empower People. Disrupt the Workplace. Change the World.

These are my words to live by for the next year. It was the inspirational focus of the 2018 conference. I am here to tell you I am ready to change the world. I am ready to help others reach their greatest potential and live fulfilled happy work and home lives.

My key highlights were:

  • Learning and growing in the Advanced Coaching course
  • Reconnecting with a colleague from the Peace Corps who I last saw in 2001.
  • Meeting new colleagues, near and far.
  • Learning coaching tips, tricks and hacks in the breakout sessions (For example, I am buying a bike bell to bring my workshops groups back together after activities).

As I work through my materials, receive the books and materials I have ordered and keep moving with my business I will share more about the conference and what I learned.

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My top 6 talent themes are Learner, Relator, Achiever, Responsibility, Activator and Maximizer.

 

#1 On Forbes List of Assessments Executives Should Take

Eleven members of Forbes’ Coaches Council weigh in on the assessments executives should take. Yes, the CliftonStrengths assessment is at the top of the list! And, no, this assessment is not just for executives. It is for anyone who wants to know themselves, be their best and do their best work.

Many people, myself included, have found this assessment to be highly impactful. I think the reason is that it helps you dig through the clutter of what you are told to do, told to be, your aspirations and failures and pulls out the gold nuggets of what you naturally do best.

Not everyone works from their greatest strengths. Think about coming home from school with a report card. On your report card are 2 As, 4 Bs and 1 F. How much time gets swallowed up on the F? How do you feel at the end of that conversation? Not to say the F shouldn’t be part of the conversation. But, how would the conversation change if you led with the As and Bs and followed with the F?

While we all need to get through elementary and secondary school , we don’t all have to be great at everything. In fact, none of us is great at everything. We each have unique talents that we are naturally great at. If we foster those talents and invest in them, they can become our greatest assets. They become our strengths.

Why focus on strengths?

My job is to help people identify and then productively apply their greatest talents to their work and life. This work can be so uplifting and positive. I have also found that is is hard to stay focused on strengths. When I work with clients on their top 5 almost everyone wonders what are their bottom talents. When I attended the Certified Strengths Training with Gallup and we got our full 34 talent themes the facilitators had to bring us back to the top 5 again…and again. My 34 talent theme is Adaptability. I have stewed over this for over 10 months since I saw it. How can I be successful if I am not adaptable? Good news! I do not need to have Adaptability to do my job, be successful, enjoy life, etc…

When I think about why we focus on strengths, I am brought back to this eye opening example given in the Certified Coaches training. The research was done in the 1950s, which seems old, but I think the point is still highly relevant, so stay with me. This Gallup white paper is a great overview of the speed reading study I am going to quickly summarize.

During the 1950s in Nebraska, studies were done to find out the best way to teach speed reading to children. Two main points came out of this research:

1. The best students who had the best teachers did the best.

2. The students most talented at speed reading saw the most significant improvements after the interventions.

Speed Reading Study

 

Average readers on average made a gain of 66%.

Talented readers on average made a gain of 828%.

This is why we invest in talent. If you are striving for excellence you will get there through talent. You can see modest (sometimes good) gains when you focus on weakness. You will never see the kind of gain made by those talented readers if you focus on weakness. Onward towards excellence!