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Book:  Crucial Conversations

Author:  Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan & Al Switzler

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R. & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations : tools for talking when stakes are high. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. Start crucial conversations with facts.  Facts are least controversial and provide a safe beginning.  In addition to being less controversial, facts are also more persuasive than subjective conclusions.  If you start with story instead of facts, you could easily surprise and insult others.  It could kill safety in one sentence. (pg. 138)

  2. Simply because everyone is allowed to share their meaning doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to take part in making all the decisions. Must make it clear how decisions will be made and who will be involved and why.  When you’re in a position of authority, you decide which method of decision making you’ll use. (pg. 179)

  3. Learn to look for patterns.  Don’t focus exclusively on a single event.  Watch for behavior over time.  For example, if a person is late for meetings and agrees to do better, the next conversation should not be about tardiness.  It should be about his or her failure to keep a commitment.  This is a bigger issue. It’s now about trust and respect.  Don’t get pulled into any one instance or your concern will seem trivial.  Talk about the overall pattern.  And if excuses accumulate, don’t talk about the most recent excuse.  Talk about the pattern. (pg. 201) 


Other Key Ideas:

The real problem in businesses is not the process, system, or the structure - it is employee behavior.  In the worst companies, poor performers are first ignored and then transferred.  In good companies, bosses eventually deal with problems.  Is the best companies, everyone holds everyone else accountable - regardless of level or position. (pg. 13) ​

Successful conversations:  People only and honestly express their opinions, share their feelings, and articulate their theories.  They willingly and capably share their views, even when their ideas are controversial or unpopular.  Even though many people may be involved in a choice, when people openly and freely share ideas, the increased time investment is more than offset by the quality of the decision.  (pg. 23)

When people aren’t involved in a decision they’re rarely committed to the final decision.  Since their ideas remain in their heads and their opinions never make it into the pool, they end up quietly criticizing and passively resisting.  We’re not suggesting that every decision be made by consensus or that the boss shouldn’t take part in or even make the final choice.  We’re simply suggesting that the greater the shared meaning added to the pool, the better the choice, the more the unity, and the stronger the conviction. (pg. 26) ​​

It takes confidence to share a potentially inflammatory story.  However, if you’ve done your homework and thought through the facts behind your story, soon you’ll realize that you are drawing a reasonable, rational, and decent conclusion.  Thinking through the facts and leading with them, you’re much more likely to have the confidence you need to add controversial and important meaning to the conversation. (pg. 141) 

Not only should you invite others to talk, but you have to do so in a way that makes it clear no matter how controversial their ideas might be, you want to hear them.  Respect them for finding the courage to express what they’re thinking. (pg. 146) 

To keep ourselves from feeling nervous while allowing someone to discuss their opinion - no matter how different or wrong the opinion might seem - remember we’re trying to understand their point of view, not necessarily agree with it or support it.  Understanding does not equate with agreement.  By taking these steps, we are promising that we will accept their point of view.  We’re trying to understand why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling and doing what they’re doing. (pg. 167) ​

If you don’t make an actual assignment to an actual person, there’s a good chance that nothing will ever come of all of the work you’ve gone through to make a decision.  When its time to pass out assignments, assign a name to every responsibility.  Be sure to spell out the exact deliverables you have in mind.  The fuzzier the expectations, the higher the likelihood of disappointment.  (pg. 184) 

Its shocking how often people leave the idea of when the assignments needs to be done out of the assignment.  With vague or unspoken deadlines, other urgencies come up, and the assignment finds it way to the bottom of a pile.  Goals without deadlines aren’t goals; they’re merely directions. (pg. 186) ​

When fear compassion rule over honesty and courage, people can go for years without being given information that could be extremely helpful. Also, the longer you go without saying anything, the greater the pain when you have to finally deliver the message.  (pg. 206) 

Make is perfectly clear that once you’ve given an assignment, there are only two acceptable paths.  Employees either need to complete the assignment as planned, or if they run into a problem, they need to immediately inform you.  There should be no surprises.  (pg. 208)

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