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“If you don’t talk it out you will act it out.” Joseph Grenny


When I got the email about the Critical Skills – Crucial Accountability lecture being given on the Dublin campus as part of the Month of Inclusion, it really peeked my interest.

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I am not one of those people who was born with the natural gift of gab.  I am that person at meetings that is quiet even though I have lots to say.  I am also not that loud cheering-leader type who demands respect, accountability and compliance.  In a fast paced competitive, action-results, corporate environment my lack of these skills is hindering my ability to achieve what I want in my career.  So any tips I could learn from this session was something I knew I really needed.

I arrived first and got a seat up at the front.  Richard Lee,  the session leader, came over and introduced himself and told me that in today’s session we would be covering tips for how to manage and strengthen relationships and increase productivity through conversation and accountability.

By the end of the session I had picked up a lot of good tips.

In a nutshell for people who don’t have the time to read my full summary here is the readers digest of the talk.   The key to successful conversations is to

  • Focus on your goal
  • Learn how to speak up and stay in dialogue.  Be persuasive not abrasive.
  • Collect your facts – and recognize when you have created a “story”
  • Recognize road-blocks to conversation.  And move forward.

Richard told us that there are 3 responses to communication:

  • Silence
  • Violence
  • Dialog

What we need and want to be successful is the dialog.  I know when talking to my kids if one of them tells me “I don’t care”, or if they say yes and then nothing gets done or even worse they speak disrespectfully towards me, I have failed.  Communication at that point is not going anywhere.  Richard told a story about an exec that got up to talk about cost cutting measures and someone in the audience raised their hand to ask why the executives had just finished redecorating their offices.  Rather than exploding, the leader responded with the facts.  The upgrade was to the showroom from where customers are brought to get the corporate sales pitch.  The personal offices of the executives were not upgraded. And then the leader praised the employee on having the courage to talk about this. She created a safe and active dialog about reducing cost.  With the proper skills, the right tone, proper facial responses, and sticking to the facts things can get done.

Career Limiting Habits
Disorganization
Prioritzation
Procrastination
Valuing Tasks over People
Lack of Willingness to Delegate
Addiction to Electronic Messaging
Anger/Emotion Management
Failure to Hold Others Accountable

Richard said that the skills to have for good conversations are

     1) Get unstuck

     2) Unbundle CPR*

     3) Focus on what you really want

We talked about the problem of someone always coming late to your meetings.  The first talk might be “why are you 20 minutes late to my last 4 meetings”. Then the person might give an excuse, apologize and say that they will be on time the next time.  When the next meeting comes up the person is late again, at that point the next conversation is not about lateness, but rather accountability.  Talk to the person about keeping their word.  Hold them responsible for their actions. Accountability is key.  Keep the conversation moving forward until you can uncover the real issue.   That is what getting unstuck is about.

CPR* stands for “content”, “pattern” and “relationship”.  The content is the problem.  The pattern is to see if you are having the same conversation over and over, and ask yourself why.  And the relationship is understanding and holding people accountable for their words through their actions.

When Richard told the group “Focus on what you really want” a light went off.   This was the tool I needed to get over my frustration with conversations.  Rather than going into “yes”, “defensive”, or “silent” mode, I need to focus on the goal.  Before the conversation begins, I need to understand what I want

  • For myself
  • For others
  • For the relationship
  • For the organization

Richard also talked a lot about recognizing and separating fact from story.  We watched a video of a manager that yelled at an employee about a failed project, the manager had a whole story in his head about how the employee left work early, did not follow procedures, did not work well with the team.  When the real facts were revealed the manager looked like a real jerk.  So first find out the fact,  then act on the information.  Richard said to be aware of the 3 types of responses that can cloud communication

  • victim stories
  • villain stories
  • helpless stories

Rather than getting stuck and unfocused by someone creating a long, going nowhere story, focus on the facts and remember your goal. This will help you get unstuck and find the root cause of the issue to solve.

Also don’t forget these steps to unstick yourself, ask

  • What is my role in the problem?
  • What would a reasonable, rational and descent person do?
  • What should I do right now to move towards what I really want?
Unhealthy Motives Motives of Dialogue
Be right Learn
Look good/save face Find the truth
Win Produce Results
Punish, Blame Strength Relationships
Avoid Conflict

Richard told us that to have better conversations you really need to want that.  If you don’t change your heart, any efforts to change your actions are likely to be insecure, shallow and doomed to failure.  When walking back to my desk after class, one of the other attendee’s said how much he learned.  He was so right.  We all walked away knowing how to be a better conversationalist and in that process to do our part to make our work relationships better.  Knowing how to have crucial conversations and how to separate the story from the fact will help you have good, productive conversations in our relationships.  And we all want that.

Live the message!

Learn how to hold good conversations!

Be Impeccable With Your Word. Don’t take anything personally.  Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.

Miguel Angel Ruiz

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