Archive for March, 2017

Book Review
Book: Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
One of my favorite books is Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler. Since reading that book, I’ve been on the lookout for other impactful books that teach how to have meaningful difficult conversations. I finally found one. Susan Scott’s work contains numerous insights useful for having tough conversations with colleagues, friends, and family. The most memorable one for me was Scott’s description of “official truth vs. ground truth,” which is described further below.

The Reader’s Digest Version: The most productive conversations are those full of intense candor and depth.

Fierce Conversations

  • “When you think of a fierce conversation, think passion, integrity, authenticity, collaboration. Think cultural transformation. Think of leadership.”
  • “Doesn’t ‘fierce’ suggest menacing, cruel, barbarous, threatening? Sounds like raised voices, frowns, blood on the floor, no fun at all. In Roget’s Thesaurus, however, the word fierce has the following synonyms: robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager, unbridled, uncurbed, untamed. In its simplest form, a fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real. While many are afraid of ‘real,’ it is the unreal conversation that should scare us to death. Whoever said talk is cheap was mistaken. Unreal conversations are incredibly expensive for organizations and for individuals.
  • “Success occurs one conversation at a time.”
  • “Begin listening to yourself as you’ve never listened before. Begin to overhear yourself avoiding the topic, changing the subject, telling little lies (and big ones), being imprecise in your language, being uninteresting even to yourself. And at least once today, when something inside you says, ‘This is an opportunity to be fierce,’ stop for a moment, take a deep breath, then come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real. Say something that is true for you.”
  • “During a fierce conversation, my role is not to say what is easy to say or what we all can say, but to say what we have been unable to say. I try to pay attention to things that may pass unobserved by others and bring them out into the open. The most valuable thing any of us can do is find a way to say the things that can’t be said.”

Ways to Know You Just Had a Fierce Conversation

  • You identified and focused on the real issue.
  • You didn’t get sidetracked by rabbit trails.
  • You took him or her deeper and deeper into the issue until you found the core.
  • You weren’t distracted by anything else going on in the room.
  • You used silence powerfully.

Interrogate Reality

  • “We believe that, in order to execute initiatives and deliver goals, leaders must have conversations that interrogate reality, provoke learning, tackle tough challenges and enrich relationships.”
  • Ask yourself, “What are the leaders in my organization pretending not to know? What am I pretending not to know?”
  • “Several years ago I was introduced to the military term ground truth, which refers to what’s actually happening on the ground versus the official tactics. One of the challenges worth going after in any organization–be it a company or a marriage–is getting to ground truth…What is ground truth in your organization? Every day companies falter and fail because the difference between ground truth and the ‘official truth’ is significant.”
  • “The official truth is available for general circulation and is viewed by most team members as propaganda. Ground truth is discussed around the water cooler, in the bathrooms, and in the parking lot, but it is seldom offered for public consumption and rarely shows up when you need it most–when the entire team is assembled to discuss how to introduce a new product or analyze the loss of a valuable customer and figure out how to prevent it from happening again.”
  • “Profitability requires an ongoing interrogation of reality, of ground truth.”
  • “In any situation, the person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge as the leader, whether designated or not.” -Edwin Friedman
  • “The point here is to draw others out with good questions and incredible listening on your part.”
  • “A fierce conversation is not about holding forth on your point of view, but about provoking learning by sitting with someone side by side and jointly interrogating reality. The goal is to expand the conversation rather than narrow it. Questions are much more effective than answers in provoking learning.”

The Decision Tree

  • “The president of the company I worked for in my late twenties took me through this exercise when I was promoted to my first management role. She drew a rough sketch of a tree and said: ‘Think of our company as a green and growing tree that bears fruit. In order to ensure its ongoing health, countless decisions are made daily, weekly, month. Right now in your development, you have a good history of making decisions in these areas [we reviewed those areas]. So let’s think of these areas as leaf-level decisions. Make them, act on them, don’t tell me what you did. Let’s make it our goal to move more decisions out to the leaf level. That’s how you and I will both know you’re developing as a leader.’”
  • “She pointed to her sketch of the tree and explained four categories of decisions.”
    • Leaf Decisions: Make the decision. Act on it. Do not report the action you took.
    • Branch Decisions: Make the decision. Act on it. Report the action you took daily, weekly, or monthly.
    • Trunk Decisions: Make the decision. Report your decision before you take action.
    • Root Decisions: Make the decision jointly, with input from many people. These are the decisions that, if poorly made and implemented, could cause major harm to the organization.
  • “Remind everyone that the goal is to move more and more decisions out to the leaf level.”
  • “At a GE plant, managers were told, ‘You have six months to teach everyone who reports to you to get along without you.’”
  • “If your employees believe their job is to do what you tell them, you’re sunk.”

Confrontations and Giving Feedback

  • “All confrontation is a search for the truth. Who owns the truth? Each of us owns a piece of it, and nobody owns all of it.”
  • “When we are preparing to confront someone’s behavior, our obligation is to describe our reality concerning the behavior and then invite our partner to describe the reality from his or her point of view.”
  • “People deserve to know exactly what is required of them, how and on what criteria they will be judged (including attitude), and how they are doing. Praise is essential when deserved. And when you praise, keep that conversation separate, focused, and clear. Reserve your praise for specific behaviors and results deserving of celebration and congratulation. Do not use praise as a lead-in to a confrontation.
  • “When we script what others will say and do prior to a conversation, we can be so locked into the responses we’re expecting that when someone responds differently, we do not notice. He may not seem angry right now, but inside I bet he’s seething. I know how he is…Our bodies manifest the pictures our minds send to them, so pay fierce attention to the negative scenario you are running in your mind.”
  • “Healthy relationships require appreciation and confrontation.”
  • “Fierce conversations cannot be dependent on how others respond.”

Other Leadership Lessons

  • “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 may have encouraged and inspired someone who is grateful to you to this day.”
  • “I am successful to the degree that who I am and what I live are in alignment.”
  • “As a leader, you get what you tolerate.”
  • “If you want to build a ship, don’t gather your people and ask them to provide wood, prepare tools, assign tasks. Call them together and raise in their minds the longing for the endless sea.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

If you like this book, you may like…
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Difficult Conversations
by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen
Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

Other notable books by the author:
Fierce Leadership

I’m trying something new with this post. Below you will find a series of quotes that I have found particularly impactful over the past three months. Leave a comment to let me know what you think or share your own book quotes that have impacted you recently.

“My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push the and make them even better. How? Just by coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.” -Steve Jobs, from The Legacy of Steve Jobs by Fortune Magazine

“True to form, the shepherd to his Apple flock often teaches in parables. One such lesson could be called ‘The Difference Between the Janitor and the Vice President,’ and it’s a sermon Jobs delivers every time an executive reaches the VP level. Jobs imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he gets an excuse: The locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn’t have a key. This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. ‘When you’re the janitor,’ Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, ‘reasons matter.’ He continues: ‘Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.’ That ‘Rubicon,’ he has said, ‘is crossed when you become a VP.’” -From The Legacy of Steve Jobs by Fortune Magazine

“I am successful to the degree that who I am and what I live are in alignment.” -Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations

“As a leader, you get what you tolerate.” -Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations

“Several years ago I was introduced to the military term ground truth, which refers to what’s actually happening on the ground versus the official tactics. One of the challenges worth going after in any organization–be it a company or a marriage–is getting to ground truth…What is ground truth in your organization? Every day companies falter and fail because the difference between ground truth and the ‘official truth’ is significant.” -Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations

“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.” -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

“It seems wrong to call it ‘business’…What we were doing felt like so much more. Each new day brought fifty new problems, fifty tough decisions that needed to be made, right now, and we were always acutely aware that one rash move, one wrong decision could be the end. The margin for error was forever getting narrower, while the stakes were forever creeping higher–and none of us wavered in the belief that ‘stakes’ didn’t mean ‘money.’ For some, I realize, business is the all-out pursuit of profits, period, full stop, but for us business was no more about making money than being human is about making blood. Yes, the human body needs blood. It needs to manufacture red and white cells and platelets and redistribute them evenly, smoothly, to all the right places, on time, or else. But that day-to-day business of the human body isn’t our mission as human beings. It’s a basic process that enables our higher aims, and life always strives to transcend the basic processes of living…I redefined winning, expanded it beyond my original definition of not losing, of merely staying alive. That was no longer enough to sustain me, or my company. We wanted, as all great businesses do, to create, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is–you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman.” -Phil Knight, Shoe Dog

“Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous.” -Jim Dator, from Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

First, figure out what gets your adrenaline going. Next, figure out a way to make a career out of your passion. And finally, outwork everyone around you.” -Anderson Cooper, from Getting There by Gillian Zoe Segal

“The Boston Beer Company has a simple hiring standard–never hire someone unless they will raise the average. Before we employ anyone, we ask, ‘Is this person better than the average of the current people we have working in this position?’ If the answer is no, we don’t make the hire. When you bring someone on board who is below your company’s average, you degrade the quality of your company. If you always hire people who raise your average, your company gets increasingly better.” -Jim Koch, from Getting There by Gillian Zoe Segal

The business gets better when you get better. Never wish it were easier, wish you were better.” -Jim Rohn, from Good Leaders Ask Great Questions by John Maxwell