Monthly Archives: April 2011

Info Exchange – Fierce Conversations

Welcome to the Loyalty Factor Information Exchange, a bi-weekly service providing summaries of major publications and books on various management and customer relationship topics. 

 Loyalty Factor has been instrumental in helping companies:

  • Increase Customer Satisfaction by 20 – 33%
  • Increase Revenues by 50% in 18 months
  • Increase Manufacturing Production by 200% in 18 months

Our information exchange this week highlights the book, “Fierce Conversations,” by Susan Scott.


Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time

Success occurs one conversation at a time whether it is coming up with a big idea, transforming a company into a great place to work, improving customer-renewal rates, enhancing cross-boundary collaboration or providing leadership development.

Every conversation we have with co-workers, customers, or significant others either enhances those relationships, flattens them or takes them down.  In Fierce Conversations, executive development expert Susan Scott explores principles and practices that will help you engage in conversations that interrogate reality, provoke learning, tackle tough challenges and enrich relationships, no matter how sensitive the topic.


What is a Fierce Conversation?

A fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind ourselves, into the conversation, and make it real.  While many people are uncomfortable with ‘real,’ it is the ‘unreal’ conversations that should really scare us because they are incredibly expensive for organizations and for relationships.


Begin by listening to yourself as you’ve never listened before.

Begin to overhear yourself avoiding the topic, changing the subject, holding back, being imprecise in your language.  If you are a leader, your job is to accomplish the goals of the organization.  How will you do that in today’s workplace if you are not having ‘real’ conversations?


Master the courage to interrogate reality.

Describing reality can get complicated because there are multiple realities existing simultaneously on almost any and every topic.  To the degree you resist exploring differing realities, you will waste time, money and energy resolving differences held by individuals who resent that their experience, opinions and strongly held beliefs are not being taken seriously.


Check for agreement.

Once reality has been defined in the form of a proposal, be certain everyone understands what is being proposed.  For example:  “I know that my enthusiasm may make it hard to challenge me, but my job is to make the best possible decisions for the organization, not to persuade you of my viewpoint.  So please speak up. Mike, what is your perspective on this?  Please push back on what I have said, play devils advocate here.”

This kind of conversation will get people to open up because you publicly, openly and actively encourage them to share opposing views.  However, be sure you show that you are open to rational influence.


Be here, prepared to be nowhere else.

Being truly present in a conversation is a rare experience because so often we are multi-tasking, eyeing our emails or thinking about something other than the conversation that is right in front of us.  However, it is only when we genuinely ‘see’ the people who are important to us, that we can hope to succeed as agents for positive change.


Tackle your toughest challenge today.

Hand in hand with the courage to interrogate reality comes the courage to bring to the surface and confront your toughest, most often recurring personal and professional issues.  When we confront behavior with courage and skill, we are offering a gift to others as well as ourselves.


Obey your instincts.

In fierce conversations there is neither a struggle for approval nor an attempt to persuade.  There is instead, an interchange of ideas and sentiments, during which you pay attention to and disclose your inner thoughts while actively inviting others to do the same.  Observe your private thoughts and feelings from a point of neutrality.  They are neither right or wrong.  They just exist.  Acknowledge your internal reference point.


Take responsibility for your emotional wake.

For a leader, there is no trivial comment.  Something you might not even remember saying may have had a devastating impact on someone looking to you for guidance and approval.  By the same token, something you said years ago my have encouraged and inspired someone who is grateful to you to this day.  Everything each of us says leaves an emotional wake.  Positive or negative.  Our individual wakes are larger than we know.


Let silence do the heavy lifting.

The best leaders talk with people, not at them.  Fierce conversation requires silence.  In fact, the more emotionally loaded the subject, the more silence is required.  Important conversations require moments of silence during which we may reflect on what someone has said and consider our responses — before opening our mouths.  Otherwise, our knee-jerk responses may not reflect our highest and best thoughts.  How could they?


In Summary, Change the world — one conversation at a time.  The world will be well served if each of us makes a strong personal choice to pay fierce attention to every conversation we have.