Sunday, February 20, 2011

Course Review: Crucial Conversations

So recently I found myself in my performance review.  Everything I do is great.  My work is done on time, and meets requirements.  I constantly think ahead, incorporate new technologies to solve old problems, and think about the long term while building software.  What I don't do very well is communicate with others.  Hence my taking the crucial conversations course.

I found crucial conversations to be a great course/book.  What I loved about it is how the techniques described in the book promote candid responses.  They don't want you to flower things up.  They want you to be direct, and to "know what you want".  For example, say you rely on another member to get some work done.  The work that they produced is either incomplete, or insufficient.  You could go on a flame streak.  You could insult them, degrade them.  You could talk bad about them behind their back.  You could do all of that.  Or, you could step back, analyze what you really want, and approach the problem that way.  You could say to yourself, I really want to get this work done (more than insulting), how can I have a conversation that will lead to the real goal?

Like most courses of this kind, the real focus is on you.  You have to change the way you think.  You have to know what you want, and keep that paramount in your mind while conversing.  You have to master your stories.  Everyone sees the "truth" through the lens of their experience.  In your own mind, take the story you have created about an event and try to separate out fact from fiction.  For example:
"The supervisor hired the recruit.  The young man poured sand in the copier.  The boss found out that the copier was broken and fired the new recruit."

Even just examine the above story.  Did you think that the young man was the recruit?  Did the story actually say that, or did you just assume that to be true?  Is the boss the same person as the supervisor? Are you sure?

The one element that I really liked about the course was the tools they developed for actually having a crucial conversation.  You have to follow the STATE rule.
S ==> Share your facts
T ==> tell your story
A ==> Ask for others' path
T ==> talk tentatively
E ==> encourage testing

I really suggest that you read the book (or take the course) as it does go into a lot of depth about how to deal with people.  The tools provided will probably help you solve a lot of issues you may be dealing with in both the work and the personal life.