If there is one regret I have from my years as an internal organizational change agent, it’s that I avoided having some of the tough one-on-one conversations that may have yielded large gains.
The reasons for avoidance were usually fear-based: fear of hurting someone’s feelings, fear of retaliation, fear that it would backfire and result in the opposite of my desired outcome. Sometimes the reasons were more political: it’s not my place to talk to certain leaders outside the chain of command or across boundaries. Political reasons are still based in fear – the fear of stepping out of place by saying the wrong thing to the wrong people.
It was easy to rely on subtle hints (or just plain hope) to get the message across that someone was hijacking the change initiative, or sending mixed signals, or not fully understanding the importance of implementing organizational change to achieve financial objectives. In some cases, I let others (higher-ups) field the important conversations for me. Unfortunately, avoidance is rarely an effective route for getting behavior change.
So I was delighted to find a book that gives practical step-by-step advice about how to have these important conversations: Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson, et al. This book is so relevant to the role of organizational change agents that I wish I had written it myself. I’m even considering making it required reading for coaching clients.
According to the book, crucial conversations are those in which:
- Opinions vary – on the surface, you don’t agree.
- Stakes are high – the outcome and the relationship are important.
- Emotions run strong – including the aforementioned fear.
Who do you need to have a crucial conversation with?
If you enjoyed this post you may also like: