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After several of our staff read our AM Strategies “Book of the Month” FIERCE CONVERSATIONS, by Susan Scott, we decided to write about it in more depth and summarize the wonderful content for our followers. Why? Well, communication is what we do! And this book offers lots of helpful insights that, when used regularly, can make anyone a better communicator, a more responsive listener, and a solutions powerhouse! There is a treasure trove of very valuable content throughout the book about managing intense, strong discussions with skill. We’ll give you the busy person’s version!

The Cliff Notes:

So, let’s start by breaking down what is meant by “FIERCE”. Fierce basically means real. Fierceness is not about being mean or combative, but about passion, strength, power, and drive. Getting fierce means telling the truth and let the truth be told. Every conversation builds up or tears down relationships. Unreal conversations could be costly and are a waste of time. Listen to your team and yourself. Don’t change the subject, lie, dodge the issue or hide behind vague language. When things get intense, take a break with the understanding of when you will come back to the conversation. Then make a conscious effort to be calm and ready to continue in a positive manner.

The 10 principles of a fierce conversation are:

  1. Every conversation should be treated as important.
  2. Be real with the facts.
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Take responsibility for everything you say.
  5. Problems should be dealt with immediately – Today!
  6. Listen to your inner voice.
  7. Silence is a needed part of every conversation. Don’t be afraid of it.
  8. Say “and” instead of “but.”
  9. Don’t talk at people – talk with them.
  10. Remember a conversation – even the smallest one – is a way to build a relationship.
“The person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge the leader.”

We’ve all been in meetings where someone is giving “the corporate nod.” Instead of saying what they really think and feel, the person just nods and is not really engaged with the conversation one way or another. It is vital we get input from EVERYONE on the team. So this book suggests asking some important questions that each team member should answer BEFORE coming to the meeting.

Pre Meeting Questionnaire

  • What is the problem or issue exactly? (You’d be shocked at how different each person might describe the actual problem.)
  • What are specific examples that illustrate the behavior or situation you want to change?
  • How do you feel about it? 
  • What are the consequences or implications?
  • What can you do or what will you do?
  • Why is this important to you?

Once you’ve discussed your question/answers, then each person in the conversation should be invited to respond. Nobody should get a pass! Truth isn’t simple. Most people confuse what they think with what is true. To get at the truth, you need to get everyone’s perspective. This can be very daunting at times but worth the effort in the long run.

The Blame Game

In the truth-seeking process, don’t place blame. Good leaders don’t blame they fact find and lead positive change for the good of all. This being said, it is useful to really think about the word “but,” which implies that someone wins and someone loses. “But” excludes. Say “and” instead; “and” includes. If you get anything out of this blog – try these three things:

  1. Describe reality accurately
  2. Don’t place blame
  3. Substitute “but” with “and.”

Seek, Don’t Hide!

Keep it real folks. When you don’t speak the truth or duck uncomfortable issues you’re just wasting everyone’s time! Also, be present in a conversation and really take in the other person’s truth. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Give all your conversations your FULL attention.
  • Look the person you are talking to in the eyes. Not aggressively but with openness.
  • Listen even when you’re on the phone – don’t check your e-mail during a conversation.
  • Engage yourself. Have one-on-one conversations. Don’t just say “Good” when somebody asks how it’s going. Use that chance to build the relationship.
  • Have courage.

Remember These 8 “Don’ts”

  • Don’t do all the talking. Make sure you do as much listening.
  • Don’t dominate the conversation. Both people should feel equal.
  • Don’t forget to ask about the other person’s feelings.
  • Don’t be vague or skirt the issue.
  • Don’t flake out on the appointed time to discuss the issue.
  • Don’t allow interruptions.
  • Don’t finish the conversation because of time. Be sure to schedule a follow-up if more time is needed.
  • Don’t think you got it right the first time. Practice makes… well NOBODY is perfect!

Now Is The Time!

Don’t put off a challenge. Do the hard things now. The first step is deciding to do something about a problem! Once you identify the problem, the solution will come. Don’t let uncomfortable situations deter you. Be courageous. Face facts head-on. Involve everyone in this effort. You might get some feedback and solutions you did not even think of! Think of a beach ball. Each side is a different color, which represents each team member. They all come at it from a different perspective and have different insight. Drilling to the core of issues can be difficult if not downright excruciating. The book calls these “Mineral rights conversations”, and like all really fierce conversations, they require you to risk facing some unpleasant facts. But when you have the courage to do so, you get the truth and are that much closer to a solution!

We hope you enjoyed our mini replay of Fierce Conversations, and we’d like to invite YOU to follow our AM Strategies blog and social media pages for more constructive content! Contact us here!

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