Having Those Difficult Conversations

Took an interesting class recently in having difficult conversations.


These are the conversations you need to have about performance, accountability, expectations, bad news, conflict, and so on. 


Often these are the conversations we tend to avoid, because we don’t know how to have them without making things worse where things get emotionally charged, people become defensive, things gets misinterpreted, and they get escalated. 


And it’s even more difficult when there is a discrepancy in power between the people having the dialogue. 


But it is important to have the critical conversations in order to solve the underlying problems!


Often problems are rooted in that we judge others too quickly and erroneously, or we just don’t have all the facts. 


The data points we do have get filtered, interpreted, assumptions are made, conclusions are drawn, beliefs are adopted, and actions are taken that may be wrong (reference: The Ladder of Inference by Chris Argyris).


The key to having a productive conversation is to explain the issue and the impact, acknowledge your part in the problem, describe the desired outcome for the relationship and the work, and most importantly, give space for the other person to respond.


We need to get the other person’s point of view, including the data points that we may have missed or misunderstood, generate options, and agree how to solve the issue.


Unfortunately, there are times when the other person digs in and isn’t open to working on or resolving the problem, in which case you may need to decide whether to grin and bear it (i.e. live with it) or leave the relationship, because it has become too unproductive and toxic. 


The instructor said it well: This is about problem-solving. But life is too short to deal with jerks!  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Daylight Saving Time S*cks

Daylight saving time makes NO sense. 


It does NOT save us a lot of energy as designed. 


Call it the wrong assumptions or bad science.


The law requiring daylight saving–switching the clocks (“Fall Back” and “Spring Forward”) is archaic and needs to be repealed. 


We’re messing with people’s sleep cycles and their health. 


People waking up groggy all over the country, feeling crappy during the day, and losing much needed productivity.  


How about we repeal this stupid law NOW and not waste any more time on the squabbling politics of the day?  


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Breaking The Paradigm

So a colleague has this sticker (with a do not image) on their computer that says:


“But we’ve always done it that way.”


They told me a funny story about the lady that made the ham with the head and tail ends always cut off.


One day, her daughter asked, “Why mom do you make the ham with the head and tail ends always cut off?”


The mother answers and says because “My mother always made it that way!”


So they went to her mother and ask the question and they get the same answer again.


Finally, they went to her great grandmother and ask, “Why do you always make the ham with the head and tail ends cut off?”


And the old lady takes a breath, pauses, and says, “Because, we didn’t have a pan big enough to fit the whole ham!”


Just thought this was a great lesson on critical thinking and also on “asking why.”


Change can be brought about by questioning underlying assumptions and historical ways of doing things and bringing an open mind and fresh light to it. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Bored Meetings

So it’s been raining so much here in the DC area lately.


The result is that the hot Summer July temperatures are down in the cool 70’s and the rain is flooding everywhere. 


When I got in the elevator this morning, someone goes to me:


“Did you see the leak in the hallway?  They are watering the tree with it.”


And sure enough, there it was!


When all this rain finally stops, there is going to be a lot of cleanup and repairs to do. 


The other thing was yesterday, we were on the way to a board meeting in our synagogue. 


In the elevator, are two other people–a man and women–carrying binders.


They say to us:


“Are you going to the board meeting?”


Surprised, because I didn’t recognize them from our synagogue, I respond affirmatively and ask to clarify:


“Oh, you’re going to the board meeting too?  I don’t recall seeing you there before.”


Then the elevator stops and they start to get off–but it’s to a different board meeting for the building.


When they see that we’re going to a different floor, they start laughing:


“I guess we’re going to different board meetings!”


I say:


“Yeah that’s right, different board meetings, but we’ll all probably be bored!


Another laugh by everyone, and we we’re all off to the races. 😉


(Source Photo:  Andy Blumenthal)

Fruitful Discussions

I liked this guidance from Dr. Britt Andreata on addressing conflict through managing difficult conversations


Here’s how the typical bad scenario unfolds:


1. Problems begin with another person (e.g. annoying or unwanted behaviors).  


2. People start building their cases – listing the wrongs done to them, collecting corroborating evidence, and seeking validation from others.


3. There is a tipping point in terms of frequency or intensity of the problems that lead to a confrontation where accusations are made and blame is attributed. 


4. Then the aftermath in terms of a animosity, loss of trust, and a damaged relationship.


Here’s a better way to deal:


1. Problems begin with another person.  


2. People spend some time reflecting on why the behavior is affecting you, getting clear on what you want to correct it, and trying to see from the other person’s perspective. 


3. The tipping point is sooner in terms of the frequency and intensity of the problems–so you nip it in the bud earlier–and you have a conversation with the other person where you have reframed the other person from an adversary to a partner (e.g. you’ve questioned the facts, assumptions, conclusions along with your emotions, beliefs, and actions–and you’ve looked at alternative narratives to these) and you take responsibility for your part, share your experience and goals to improve things, invite their perceptions, and “co-create solutions.”


4. Follow through with the other person to work together, implement the changes, and hold each other accountable to address the issues. 


The amazing thing about this approach to conflict management is that assuming the other person isn’t truly bad, evil, or gunning for you is that we can look at things from constructive perspective where we own our part, and they own theirs, and together we work together to make things better for everyone. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

When You Need To BLUF

Bottom Line.jpeg

Most professional (and even personal) communications should start with…

________________________


BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front).


This means that you start with the ending–in mind, on paper, verbally, and in digital format. 


You provide the conclusion and/or recommendations right up front.


Rather than first wadding through all the details–context, analysis, considerations, assumptions, risks, etc. 


Let the reader know right away what it is you want. 


Generally, this is different than an abstract or summary that provides a synopsis and leading evidence for the argument put forward. 


Tell me what I need to know and get right to the point! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Survival x 3

Red_white_and_blue_kayaks

So today I learned from Bear Grylls how survival comes in 3s.

That basically, the rule of thumb is that you can live:

– 3 minutes without air.

– 3 days without water.

– 3 weeks without food.

No, I don’t intend to test these assumptions–but thanks. 😉

This “Rule of Three” reminded me on these three kayaks I saw–Red, White, and Blue–navigating the Shenandoah River.

They are together, like three legs of a stool–strong, upright, and moving forward. 

I like this rule of thumb and wanted to share with others with might benefit.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)