Crucial conversations

While reading Dan McCarthy’s blog on the ten things that keep managers away at night (are there only 10?) I was struck by a trend. Amongst Dan’s ten sleepless nights were most communciation issues (with human beings) – work was so much easier when people hunted and machines produced, along with the occassional obedient animal, ahh those were the days – in fact, Dan pointed out this trend later in his article when he highlighted the term cruicial conversations.

This caught my interest, so I did what any intelligent person does these days and I googled the term. Apparently there is a book titled Crucial Conversations. Tools for talking when the stakes are high authored by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. You can purchase online at Fishpond, an online bookstore in both Australia and New Zealand ( or because I like to promote home grown businesses).

Now I havent read this book. Do I need to read a book on something I have been doing since birth? Well yes, like most of us, our conversations often leave a lot to be desired. Taking something that comes naturally for granted is not always a pathway to conversational nirvana. I did read the reviews and I noted the chapter headings.

Chapter 3: Start with the heart.

Chapter 4: Look to learn

Chapter 5: Make it safe

Chapter 6: Master my stories

Chapter 7: State my PATH

Chapter 8: Explore other’s paths

Chapter 9: Move to action

There are more chapters. You will need to purchase the book to read them.

These are my thoughts on some of these things. Start with the heart. To me this is about personal values, likes and dislikes, who you are, what drives you, how you want others to see you.

Learn to look. Observe and listen. What are your observations of others’ behaviour, is it consistent with what is being said? Be open to other perspectives and ideas, even be open to changing your own position. Things might not be how you percieved them to be.

Make it safe. Oh yeah baby, make it safe for me. Why not? Why would I follow you if you are going to lead me someplace unsafe? When I have a conversation with you, and vica versa I get to look you in the eye.

Master my stories. Indigenous cultures are often oral based. They tell stories, sometimes unbelievably tall stories but thats not the point; which is that they share knowledge by sharing their experiences, what they like and dislike, what works and what doesn’t.

State my PATH and explore other people’s paths. Be clear in your expectations of others. Be clear in your expectations of yourself. Steer clear of the fuzzy wuzzys and be explicit and concise. Don’t leave others in doubt, don’t be in doubt yourself. As questions to clarify. Explore and roam before setting out on your journey for there may be multiple pathways to wander along.

Take action. Move from talking to walking the talk. When we share with each other we make requests of each other for future action and when we offer to do something we make a commitment, a promise to do something. Fernando Flores defined trust as being seen to do the things we said we would do. So many managers trip themselves up here by not honouring the commitments they made to others.

Those are my thoughts for the day

John Coxon



About John Coxon

Principal consultant for John Coxon & Associates, a management consultancy working with boards and management teams in healthcare, aged care and not for profit organisations to develop effective strategic planning processes and social enterprise business plans
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