People

Crucial Conversations

Achieve win-win breakthroughs in sensitive situations by keeping both parties centered and connected.

The Case for Excelling at Crucial Conversations

Studies indicate that leaders today have to navigate difficult conversations more frequently than ever before.

Effective communication helps leaders:

  • Rally their team around a shared vision
  • Empower employees
  • Build trust
  • Successfully navigate organizational change

Further, research has shown that employees who work in organizations where communication is “open, timely, and accurate” are more engaged at work and demonstrate a greater intent to stay.

Sources: Real Leaders Magazine (November 2021 issue), Harvard Business School, Gallup

3 in 4 employees view effective communication as the top leadership attribute. Yet 2 in 3 employees think their leaders do not communicate effectively.

Only 7 percent of U.S. workers think their workplace communication is accurate, timely, and open.

Every unaddressed conflict at work can waste about 8 hours in gossip and other unproductive activities.

Sources: Research by Quantum Workplace and Fierce Conversations and Harvard Business School

Behaviors Learned

  • Create a calm space that fosters candor and cooperation
  • Communicate concerns, issues, and needs clearly and constructively
  • Explore diverse perspectives to see things in a more complete light
  • Build mutual understanding and win-win outcomes
  • Shift mindsets and behaviors to catalyze change in people

Core Ideas

Accept the magic ratio

For every five positive interactions, a healthy relationship (on average) has one conflict-laden interaction. Researchers call this the “magic ratio.” The key to success is not to suppress conflict, but to handle it constructively and to balance each instance of conflict with several positive touchpoints.

Center and connect

For a conversation to go well, you need to be centered (calm, open) and connected (empathetically attuned to the other party’s needs). And the other party needs to be centered and connected with you as well.

Mentora’s program on Crucial Conversations is founded on five principles:

  1. Responsibility: It is 100% your responsibility to stay centered and connected and to do your best to keep the other party centered and connected.
  2. Intention: Maintain a Positive Intention. Half the outcome is determined just by the expectation and intention you bring into the room.
  3. Non-attachment: By having no attachment to outcomes, you avoid being fixated on a particular view of how the conversation should go and where it should end. This allows you to be open to new learnings, and prevent coming across as inflexible, uncaring, or needy.
  4. Unconditional Respect: Despite how upsetting someone’s behavior may be, you will only get to a constructive outcome if you show respect for them, and for yourself, in all conditions.
  5. Full Engagement: A difficult conversation requires you to be fully attentive to the situation, its nuances — the thoughts, feelings, and intentions triggered in you and in the other party — and its unexpected twists. This requires you to approach such moments from a restful, prepared, and undistracted state, without being pressed for time — and to create conditions where the other party can also be fully engaged.
Case Study

How to Master Crucial Conversations

Context

Deloitte recognized that their fast-paced growth was leading to some challenges for their apprenticeship program, and wanted to help their consultants develop core leadership skills. They were looking to partner with an organization with an innovative approach and a track record of success to meet their learning goals for this group.

Program

Deloitte partnered with Mentora to help over 300 consultants cultivate a core leadership skill essential to meet their business goals — that of mastering crucial, high-impact conversations.
Mentora designed a 30-day learning program — based on our unique Inner Mastery, Outer Impact approach — to help Deloitte’s consultants learn the principles and techniques of mastering crucial conversations. Our aim was to ensure that participants gain a deep appreciation of how conflict-laden conversations, when approached the right way, can lead to positive, win-win outcomes.

Program Delivery

Mentora adapted a blended approach to deliver this program:

  • A kick-off webinar to set the right expectations and inspire participants to engage in the learning journey
  • A 4-week self-paced digital learning journey
  • A practice workshop with roleplays and live peer-to-peer feedback

Mentora has now delivered this program to Deloitte three years in a row.

Impact

Our program resulted in significant shifts in participants’ likelihood and ability to practice certain behaviors around Crucial Conversations.

After the conclusion of the program:

  • 94 percent of participants found the program to be valuable to them
  • 91 percent of participants rated their experience with Mentora as good or excellent
Change in Behavior % likely to practice this
before the program
% likely to practice this
after the program
Feel comfortable and confident in my ability to have difficult conversations when the need arises 19 77
Clear my mind of any hesitancy and misgivings so I can walk into the conversation with calmness and positive intentions 25 76
Strive to make sure the other person and I are in a situation that allows both of us to be 100% engaged and focused instead of being tired or facing other pressures, time constraints, or distractions 25 74
Keep an open mind so I can adapt my perspective and position on issues as the conversation unfolds, rather than staying attached to a particular outcome 37 75
Tune into and empathize with the other person’s situation, thoughts, and feelings 46 81
Use inquiry to deepen my understanding of the other person — their situation, concerns, and motives 50 86
Pause the conversation if I find myself or the other party getting emotionally agitated or anxious 47 77
Express appreciation for the other person to maintain a positive dynamic 57 78
Participant Voices

I interviewed a client who seemed like they would be tough because they might not have been receptive to the questions we were asking. I started out by asking about their background and experience, and found out that we had worked at the same organization. Once that connection was made, they opened up and were more willing to discuss some difficult topics.

Executive | Deloitte

Participant Voices

I had to decline a candidate from a role recently, which was really difficult because he was a strong candidate and a great person. The decision was difficult for the team to make, which made the conversation more difficult because I didn’t have any ‘good’ reason for declining him. So, I told him my own hiring story with the firm; that I didn’t get the first role I applied and interviewed for, but in the end, I kept my network and was able to find a role with the firm that was better suited for me. He was very receptive to the story, and we’ve agreed to keep in touch.

Executive | Deloitte