Crucial Conversations for Leader Success

The magnitude of your influence in life is fundamentally determined by your capacity to talk about emotionally and politically risky things, said New York Times best-selling author Joseph Grenny.  Grenny shared this and more in a leadership lecture to the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology.

With over five million air miles and countless client experience, Grenny has proven to be an influential leader. He is the co-founder and VP of VitalSmarts and co-author of four New York Times bestsellers including, “Crucial Conversations” and “Change Anything.”

Speaking to a crowd of students and faculty who specialize in developing technical skill sets, Grenny started his lecture by saying, “The vast majority of people we work with that struggle to get things done in their organizations have come to the conclusion that the limiting factor is not technical competence. The limiting factor is people’s capacity to work through a human system.”

He said that this one ability is what “makes or breaks people in their technical achievements.”

When an uncomfortable or upsetting situation occurs people respond in two ways: they either talk it out or act it out.  Grenny explained that it is human nature to respond to a situation.  If someone chooses not to verbally address the problem, their mannerisms will.

Grenny emphasized that the skill set needed to successfully work through a human system, to appropriately communicate important messages, is a life-long process. There are two big ideas that he suggested implementing in order to give the life-long process a jump start: “how to get unstuck” and “make it safe.”

Getting Unstuck

In order to get unstuck, one must ask themselves, “What is the crucial conversation we are either not holding or not holding well?” Grenny relayed the statistic that 90 percent of people today working on high stakes projects report that they see risks in their projects that they don’t mention.

Grenny and his four business partners have been together for 23 years. He attributes this long-term and effective professional relationship to many crucial conversations that have strengthened and united the team.

Creating Safety

The second big idea is to create an environment of safety when you need to have a crucial conversation. These conversations can either strengthen or destroy a relationship. To tell the truth and keep a friend is difficult but possible, said Grenny.

“When safety is at risk, step out of the content and strengthen mutual purpose and mutual respect,” said Grenny.

Part of feeling safe and secure is knowing that there is common ground to rest on and a common goal to reach.

In closing, Grenny left students with this advice, “It ought to be your life’s work to say, ‘How can I find a way? How can I develop the capacity to speak the truth in life?’”

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