"Seek first to understand, rather than to be understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication."-Stephen Covey
Crucial conversations are one of the top reasons executives and managers can become derailed. Mastering this skill helps us understand how to become a better leader through personal relationship building. To quickly review what we learned in Part I of this discussion, we learned what makes up a crucial conversation, how to start with heart, learn to look for meaning and how to create a discussion 'path' by using the acronym, STATE. Today, we will continue to strengthen our discussion skills by learning how to start the conversation and how to move to action through decision making.
To encourage others and share in their road to success, you can use four powerful tools to help facilitate crucial conversations. These four skills can be remembered by the acronym AMPP--Ask, Mirror, Paraphrase and Prime. First,
Ask how to get things rolling. Start by very simply expressing an interest in your colleagues viewpoints.
Mirror in order to confirm feelings. By acknowledging emotions and opinions, it reinforces the value you are putting on understanding where they are coming from
Paraphrase to confirm the story. As others begin to share, it's important to restate what you've heard in order to show that you understand and are willing to be open to discussing differences.
Prime when you are getting nowhere. If others continue to hold back, prime. Take your best guess at what they might be thinking and feeling and suggest in order to start a conversation.
As simple as ABC!
It's now your turn to talk. But, what if you disagree with the opinions that have been shared? As you begin to share your viewpoint, remember:
Agree. Find areas of agreement and acknowledge what those are.
Build. If you felt something has been left out of the facts shared, agree where they do and then build on together until a truth is reached between both parties.
Compare. If opinions or remembered facts differ significantly, don't suggest that others are in the wrong. Just revert to comparing both viewpoints. It's important NOT to turn differences into debates, this does not create forward momentum but will most likely stall a conversation completely.
Next it's time to move from discussion to action! Having crucial conversations, doesn't always lead to ideas turning into action. This could be due to two different reasons: they have unclear expectations about how future decisions will be made and, people do a poor job of acting on decisions that they DO make. This creates potential for new challenges to arise.
How to decide...how to decide!
There are four common ways of making leadership decisions and some good do's and don'ts to keep in mind:
Command: Decisions are made without involving others. It's always important to explain the reason behind the decision when choosing this method.
Consult: Input is gathered from the group and then decision made by committee. Reporting the decision then involves explaining how a decision was made and then reporting the final decision back to the team.
Vote: An agreed-upon percentage swings the decision. Votes should not replace analysis and healthy dialogue.
Consensus: Everyone comes to an agreement and then supports the final decision. When the idea doesn't work out, the group owns the failure together.
Dialogue is Not Decision Making:
The two riskiest points in crucial conversations are always at the beginning and the end of the discussion. The beginning is risky due to the fact that all parties need to feel safe so the expectation is met that the discussion is two-way. The end of the discussion is tricky because sales leadership is not careful in how you clarify a decision, you can run into unmet expectations later on.
Pick a Conversation.
Pick a conversation and a relationship to begin with. Let other's know your aim to do better and then give it a shot. When you make a mistake in a crucial conversation, don't hesitate to admit it. When you succeed in bridging the gap in a tricky situation through meaningful, productive conversation...celebrate the victory. Finally, if the opportunity arises, help coach others to do the same. Ultimately, learning good communications skills in high-stakes conversations will only help to strengthen your organization, one relationship at a time.
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*Inspiration for this week's blogs from: Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.