Fierce Conversations

Fierce Conversations

If my last post on meaningful conversations resonated with you then you need to read the book by Susan Scott called Fierce Conversations.  I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at Center for Leadership Formation put on by Seattle University’s Business School.  Not only was she a gifted speaker and communicator, but her ideas are creating significant influence on the culture at Highland, and how I am thinking about my life.

If you aren’t sure what “fierce” conversations means, her quote at the beginning of the book summarizes it well:

“When you think of a fierce conversation, think passion, integrity, authenticity, collaboration.  Think cultural transformation.  Think of Leadership.”

Susan is a big fan of saying that we live our lives one conversation at a time.  If this is true, and I believe it is, then it totally changes how I think about the types of conversations that fill my days.

In her presentation she told a story about Robert Redford, and how fierce conversations play out for him.  In meetings in particular, he invites people from varying levels of perspective, and in many cases ones that you might not think would have any usefulness or expertise on the subject matter; all in the effort to fully discover and explore the subject from as many angles as possible.  Second, and most interesting to me, he says out loud, and fully expects, that he wants to be “changed” by the conversation.

What kind of amazing transformation could occur in our lives, businesses, and even the world if we all had fierce conversations in a way that we would come away from our interactions together changed?  Isn’t that a totally cool thought?

There are many other nuggets of value in this book and the following are just a sampling that will not come even close to doing justice (Sorry, Susan), but in an effort to highlight a couple of key insights for me, here goes:

  • Fierce conversations take time.  Getting everyone’s perspective on the table and interrogating it fully is hard to do, but anything else takes longer.  My perspective on an issue (at home or work) is not “reality” or ‘truth” but only reality and truth from my point of view as CEO, or husband, or father.  Fully exploring these “other” realities is what creates the potential for alignment and positive momentum.
  • Take a personal retreat once a year to have a fierce conversation with yourself.  I have written about this in my Taking a Time Out post, and I totally agree with this concept.  Spending time alone, conversing with ourselves, it a critical step in creating the ideal future you want for yourself.  At Highland, we call this exercise The Ideal Outcomes Conversation™.
  • Building deep relationships is about coming into conversations with empty hands.  It’s not about my ability to talk or pontificate, but instead I want to ask questions, learn about the other persons reality so that my own point of view can be expanded and potentially changed.
  • There are things our gut knows long before our intellect catches on.  Learning to listen to our own internal voice and radar is hard to do because there are so many other external opinions and voices that drown mine out.  Check out my post on intuition for more texture on this important concept.
  • The conversation “is” the relationship.  The quality of relationships in my life are directly correlated to the quantity and quality of conversations that take place in those relationships.  When I am focused and centered I can pay attention to the words spoken and their effect.
  • Be aware if your conversations leave a negative emotional wake.  Withholding what you are thinking can be just as dangerous and destructive as delivering a message that is loaded.  Learning how to be transparent and real without harm can take practice.  If you are genuinely working on this skill you may from time to time swing too far towards raw truth.  Be self aware but don’t be afraid of this outcome in the early stages.

This book is definitely a new addition to our Highland Book List and I can promise it will live up to the front cover tag line by helping you to “achieve success at work and in life, one conversation at a time.”

Have you had a positive experience from a fierce conversation?

John Christianson