Principle 1: Master the courage to interrogate reality.
"Are my truths in the way?"Scott suggests that we need the courage to interrogate reality. This reminds me of Good to Great by Jim Collins. Collins used the analogy of looking under the rocks for squiggly things which is similar to what Scott suggests. We cannot be afraid of what we uncover and we have to actively seek out reality. Reality is constantly changing and is often different from person to person. If we have a better idea of our reality it is much easier to make decisions that will move the organization forward.
Principle 2: Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real.
"What are we pretending not to know?"How do we get the unfiltered story? I think the challenge for me is finding the time and the space to have these types of conversations. In my role I find this difficult, because I am often only getting to surface conversations due to the busyness of the school day. I have found that I have to schedule these types of conversations to make them happen. I also believe being visible in both of my schools is extremely important. If I am out of the office I am more approachable, which may provide an opportunity to have a fierce conversation.
Principle 3: Be here, prepared to be nowhere else.
"While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship or a life – Any single conversation can."
"The conversation is the relationship. One conversation at a time, you are building, destroying, or flatlining your relationships."It is flat out easier to connect with certain people. How do we connect with those that are wrapped in Teflon and carrying a shield? Connecting with all employees is difficult and takes constant work. We need to have a quality relationship with all coworkers and employees. Obviously it is much easier to connect with those that share the same views, but that will only take your school or organization so far.
Scott recommends the following:
- Start with this question, “What is the most important thing you and I should be talking about?”
- Listen and don’t do most of the talking.
- Don’t take the problem from them.
- Inquire about feelings.
- Be clear.
- No cancellations, unless someone dies.
- Don’t allow interruptions (eye contact and disconnect from technology).
- Don’t run out of time, establish next steps.
- Don’t assume the conversation went well.
Principle 4: Tackle your toughest challenge today.
"Make it your job as a leader to give up mole whacking and take up grub hunting."I have a quote taped to my monitor that reads, “no shortcuts, no quick fixes, no blaming others, no I’ll do tomorrows, and no excuses.” Time is of the essence when issues arise. I find that I am less stressed when I have a fierce conversation as soon as possible. The conversation never goes as bad as you think it will go.
Common errors according to Scott:
- Avoid starting with “So, How’s it going” this is an age-old lead-in to bad news. Get to the point quickly.
- Don’t use praise as a lead-in to a confrontation.
- Don’t put too many pillows around a message. Be clear and concise.
Principle 5: Obey your instincts
"All conversations are with myself and sometimes I involve others."
"The most valuable thing any of us can do is find a way to say the things that can’t be said."
"A careful conversation is a failed conversation."Principle 6: Take responsibility for your emotional wake
"Everything each of us says leaves an emotional wake. Positive or negative."
"Our emotional wake determines the story that is told about each of us in the organization. It’s the story that’s told when we’re not in the room."Hard feelings often remain after difficult conversations. It really comes down to how clear and compassionate we are in the moment. We all have to gauge the emotional wake that we have left behind, because that will impact our relationships down the road.
"The conversation is not about the relationship; the conversation is the relationship."
Principle 7: Let silence do the heavy lifting.
"Silence makes us nervous. So do innovation, change, and genius."
"The more emotionally loaded the subject, the more silence is required."
It is difficult to include silence into conversations. We often want to fill that space between our words with talk, because silence is often uncomfortable. Silence is often one of the best techniques when having a difficult conversation. It allows both people to slow the conversation down and think about what needs to be said.
Any insight on how you handle difficult conversations?