Leading Through Crucial Conversations

Change is hard; especially in the education system which has changed only minimally over the past century! We are aware of this massive struggle as we face the whirlwind of our everyday lives, yet we still hold strong to the dreams and goals of making a difference. We want more than most people, we are willing to fight a little harder, and give a little more, but why? What makes us different? Some people may say that one of the main characteristics that set us apart from others is our rooted leadership qualities; but what is a leader?

In my opinion one of the main characteristics of an effective leader is someone who stands firm in what they believe in, no matter what is going on around them… In other words, an effective leader is a self-differentiated leader. I deal with this struggle almost daily! I have one person who I think of as a true “virus” in my organization (Camp, 2010). When this person comes around, you can actually feel the environment changing. He has a negative attitude about everything, and is never satisfied. I must continuously remind myself to not let him impact me, my feelings, my attitude, and my job. Thank goodness there is only one! However, I can definitely see how someone that is not quite as emotionally strong or stable would fall victim to his negative personality!

When we relate these ideas to the crucial conversation process established by Patterson, Granny, McMillan, & Switzler (2012), I feel like an effective leader is one who is able to setup, maintain, and take action before, during, and after a Crucial Conversation. So, what exactly makes a conversation crucial? A crucial conversation is one that meets the following three points:

  • Stakes are highcrucial-conversations
  • Varying opinions are involved
  • Emotions are strong

I have never been a very emotional person; but as a mother, the older I get, I have a very difficult time keeping my emotions in check. The first step in the crucial conversations process is to start with the heart.  We need to work on ourselves first, because if we cannot get ourselves right, we will have an extremely difficult time getting the dialogue right.

The first step in the crucial conversations process is to start with the heart.

One of the most important lessons I learned from the Crucial Conversations book is to always speak up. As an industry-related instructor, I can cross connect this importance with our “Stop Work Authority”. As employees, it was not only your right, but also your responsibility to speak up and ask questions or make comments when you were not sure about something or you had an idea of how to do something better of safer. The main focus they pushed when it came to this Stop Work Authority, was that it did not matter if it was your first day, or your thirtieth year on the job, you had the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else on the jobsite. This should also apply to our educational organization. If someone has an idea that could help us make things better for our students, shouldn’t we speak up? My biggest downfall is that sometimes I tend to sit in the back and listen to others as I keep my ideas to myself because I do not want others thinking I am an “over achiever”, just an “excited newbie”, or a fresh “young buck” trying to make a name for myself, and that it will all go away soon. It should not matter if this is my first year, or my last, my goal is stay energized, excited, and student-focused throughout my career in education. I need to focus on the fact that my opinions, ideas, and plans have as much value as any other faculty member at LIT, regardless of the letters behind my name, or the years of service I have on my resume.

Although we have different opinions, we can still share ideas, thoughts, plans, and goals, and possibly even help each other brainstorm new possibilities, share insights, and create common goals and strategies to reach them. Fulfilling this utopian collaborative environment will create a safe environment.

The next most important lesson I gained from this book is that crucial conversations are just that- conversations. Not arguments! There is a difference. If we turn our focus away from being right, and toward being understood, our goals would become much more obtainable. We must embrace the idea that we have different opinions. After all, isn’t that one of the factors that make these conversations crucial ones? Although we have different opinions, we can still share ideas, thoughts, plans, and goals, and possibly even help each other brainstorm new possibilities, share insights, and create common goals and strategies to reach them. Fulfilling this utopian collaborative environment will create a safe environment. Much like our online learning environment where we feel comfortable sharing our ideas: free of harsh criticism, open to constructive criticism and positive feedback, and a forum where we are encouraged to share our various ideas, opinions, beliefs, and goals; this safe environment will also help unite our workforce in ways we never thought were possible.

The purpose of the book is not to teach us how to talk to each other, but instead to teach us how to talk to people to get the results that we want to achieve! Crucial conversations are going to take place anytime the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions are strong- which is pretty much going to be throughout the introduction of my innovation plan, and many times after that! If we do not follow this process and enter into a crucial conversation where the previous conditions are present, chances are we are going to end up in an emotional (possibly even hostile) disagreement.

I think the greatest benefit of using the crucial conversations process is once you have identified exactly what you want, and how you need to behave to get there, there is a big focus on learning to look at what is going on and making the environment safe. This is where we are going to foster the fragility of other people’s feelings and emotions as I previously mentioned.

I think it is important to focus on the leader that I am personally first to ensure my strength to stand up for what I believe and what I am trying to accomplish before I enter Be the first as leadership conceptany of these challenging situations and conversations.  Once I feel satisfied with my self-differentiated leadership qualities I will definitely be preparing for many crucial conversations to get my innovation plan rolling as I introduce my why statement, and begin to implement my influencer strategy and my 4DX model.

Royalty free images retrieved from GraphicStock

References:

Camp, J. (2010, November 10). Friedman’s Theory of Differentiated Leadership Made Simple. [YouTubeVideo]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgdcljNV-Ew&feature=youtu.be

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. Columbus, OH: McGraw Hill.

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