Crucial Conversations at Microsoft

“Speak when you are angry - and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret.” -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter

A crucial conversation is any conversation where the stakes are high, emotions run strong and opinions vary.  If you can master crucial conversations, you can kick-start your career, strengthen your relationships, and improve your health.  In the game of life, skill is often a better hand to play, than fear or luck.  Don’t fear crucial conversations.  Master them.

One of the best books on the topic, is Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

Here's the process in a nutshell ...

  1. Step 1. Start with Heart.
  2. Step 2. Learn to Look.
  3. Step 3. Make it Safe.
  4. Step 4. Master My Stories.
  5. Step 5. STATE My Path.
  6. Step 6. Explore Other’s Paths.
  7. Step 7. Move to Action.

The beauty of the approach is that the patterns are sticky.  If you can remember things like "Master My Stories" or "Make it Safe,", then you can easily break out of limiting patterns.  The patterns are cleverly named, and once you read the book, they make perfect sense in terms of how you use them to shape or reshape conversations.   They break limiting patterns, and enable empowering ones.

Early on, we adopted and practiced these skills on the Microsoft patterns & practices team.  It was extremely helpful for bringing issues to the table, creating an open and respectful environment, and ultimately trust.  Not to mention, when you can talk about the tough stuff at work, it makes work life better.

I mentor a lot of people inside and outside of Microsoft.  This is one of the tools I highly recommend everybody adds to their toolbox.  Even if you are already good at crucial conversations, this helps you be succseeful by design rather than luck or stumble into success.

It's one thing to hear about a technique.  It's another to hear the story.  If you want to read the story of how one Softie, changed their life through crucial conversations, check out Lessons Learned from Crucial Conversations, by Eric Brun.

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