My STEP project consisted of attending Crucial Conversations, a leadership and collaboration training seminar. During my project, I learned skills to approach problems, conflicts, and necessary topics in a constructive way. The learning was a combination of lecture, lecture videos, classroom discussion, role playing, skits, and short response writing. The primary teaching technique was experiential learning. I was in a class with around 20 other people, all of which were working professionals.
Before taking Crucial Conversations, I often ignored issues or problems because I felt that discussing them would lead to conflict. Through my training I was able to learn a process for starting and having these conversations that allows solutions and understanding to be reached. It taught me that being able to discuss difficult topics produced a far better result than ignoring the issues.
One of the most valuable things that I learned that if you conduct crucial conversations in accordance with the training, people on all sides of the discussion will benefit from your leadership. It produces win-win outcomes for all parties involved.
Several events, interactions, and activities contributed to this transformation.
First, meeting my classmates deeply encouraged me on my pursuit of self-betterment. When we first introduced ourselves, everyone shared their role or professional job. Many of them had very impressive jobs and titles. When I said, “Hi, I’m Haley and I’m a business student at The Ohio State University.” I was surprised by how much support they offered me for being there. Many of them said things like “I wish I could have done this in college!”. That alone set the tone for my experience. It was a huge gift to be there.
Second, we did an activity in which we paired up with someone and discussed with them a crucial conversation that we needed to have in our lives. We gave feedback, roleplayed, and discussed how to most effectively have the conversation. Throughout the training, we continued to check back with our partners as we learned new tools. This was a very significant part of the training for me because it not only allowed me to see MY crucial conversation in action, but it also put me on the other side of a crucial conversation.
Third, through the lecture videos we were shown two different scenarios: the wrong way and the right way. In watching both versions of a conversation I was able to see the areas in which I typically get stuck. We also worked to identify which tools the actor was using in each part of the video. Seeing the contrasting conversation further highlighted how vital learning these tools now will be in my future success in my career and in managing relationships in other aspects of my life.
This transformation is so significant in my life because it gives me the skills to manage these high stakes conversations in a way that results in the best outcome for the parties involved. Crucial Conversations gave me confidence that high stakes and emotional topics do not have to result in an argument. Usually less than 6 percent of the population has the skill set and mental discipline to conduct a crucial conversation. Typically, they are significantly more successful than their peers based on the multiple definitions of success. This reality was reinforced by several high-level HR professionals attending the class. Through Crucial Conversations, I have grown greatly as an individual. I feel that I am armed with the skills that I need to be successful in having the tough conversations that life presents me with in the many roles life may bring—a student, an entry-level employee, a wife, a mother, a manager, a teacher, a civic leader, a board member, a patron, an executive, a CEO, and a global citizen.
The authors of Crucial Conversations training set out to research the keys to organizational achievement and overall success. Most of the researchers’ preliminary hypotheses were along the lines of strategy, structure, and systems. What they found was that the successful companies’ high performance was not a result of forms, procedures, and performance management policies, but rather a result of the way people in the companies handled crucial conversations. In the highest performing companies, people held each other accountable at all levels. They focused on solving pressing problems, having the tough conversations face-to-face and in a productive manner. For example, one of the learnings that we role played was a boss that promised seniors management a very unrealistic timeline. When he presented the project to the team, it became clear that it was undeliverable. His reaction was to become hostile and aggressive. The team in turn had various reactions. As a class, we role played how each participant in the meeting could convert the encounter to a crucial conversation. The class was very practical and applicable to all aspects of life.