Facilitating Crucial Conversations


Numerous students have asked if we have read Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, and so we did. Since most of us do not have time to read everything on our “Book List”, here is a brief summary of our takeaways as they apply to being a more effective facilitator. For your benefit they are listed sequentially according to the page numbers in the first edition (2002).

  • Glossary – A crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions runs strong.
  • Page xii – Crucial conversations do not simply transact and inform, rather they transform. They create a middle way, not a compromise, between two opposites on a straight-line continuum, like a higher middle ground. Think of the apex of a triangle.
  • Page xiii – Most breakthroughs in life are truly “break-withs” meaning that we must let go of old habits, patterns, and beliefs to allow room for new ideas to rise.
  • Page 20 – Skilled facilitators find a way to get all the relevant information considered in the discussion, providing an integrative path whereby the question is not “Who gets the biggest piece?” but rather “How can we make the pie bigger?”
  • Page 24 – Decision-making quality is improved with increased shared meaning. For additional discussion on this critical topic, see our posting on the importance of rhetorical precision and how participants can be in violent agreement with each other, and need someone to listen.
  • Page 29 – Ironically, the most talented people continuously try to improve their dialogue skills. Hopefully that means you and I as well.
  • Page 43 – Focus on AND, not BUT. Stifle comments that begin with “X, Y, and Z may be true BUT . . .” and force your participants to use the word AND as in “X, Y, and Z may be true AND . . .”
  • Page 49 – When it’s safe, people can say anything. When it’s unsafe, participants start to go blind. Remember the first responsibility of the facilitator is to protect the people in the room. The deliverable is sought only to serve the people and not the other way around. Make them safe, first and foremost.
  • Page 126 – Begin with facts because facts are the least controversial, the most persuasive, and the least insulting. By FAST standards, factsare objective components to which we can all agree. Remember to convert the subjective (asin in subject matter expert) to theobjective by asking about the unit of measurements (resulting inobjectiveScoville units  rather than subjective comments about thechili being hot).


    Dialogue Model

  • Page 141 – One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears—by listening to them. Frequently participants simply need to know that someone else understands their point of view. Do not forget that active listening implies providing reflection about what they said and confirming whether or not you were correct.
  • Page 164 – Four methods of decision-making: command, consult, vote, and consensus. While the FAST technique discourages voting, even these world-class authors (eg, Steven Covey) suggest using consensus building for complex issues with high stakes, where everyone must support the final choice.
  • Page 182 – Dialogue Model (slightly modified)

See www.crucialconversations.com for further insight: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson (Author), Joseph Grenny (Author), Ron McMillan (Author), Al Switzler (Author), Stephen R. Covey (Author), Publisher: McGraw-Hill; first edition (June 18, 2002), ISBN-10: 0071401946, ISBN-13: 978-0071401944

Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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About Facilitative Leader & Instructor
Biographic Sketch — Terrence Metz Since the end of 1999, Terrence Metz has been a founding principal partner and vice president at Morgan Madison & Company. For over twenty years, through professional and academic endeavors, Terrence has focused on improving group decision-making. His experience has proven that two important components to effective group decision-making are: 1. Higher quality information assures higher quality decisions, 2. Properly managed conflict, generates more “options” to consider—
and groups with more options are proven to make higher quality decisions. Terrence is passionate about using and teaching the FAST Facilitative Leadership Training technique so that people and teams make more informed decisions. Terrence is the lead instructor and primary curriculum developer for MG Rush Performance Learning. He earned his Six Sigma Green Belt® from Motorola University and wrote most of the existing FAST curriculum. Terrence made the FAST technique more robust by adding and enhancing decision-making tools such as PowerBalls and the FAST quantitative SWOT technique that is used worldwide by Fortune 1000 companies. He introduced the concept of holism to the field of structured facilitation as a method for keeping discussions on target and aligning deliverables throughout an organization. Since 1999, Terrence has taught over two hundred classes. With a Baccalaureate in Science from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and a MBA from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on product/ process development and innovation. Terrence has a P&L background in capital goods markets with highly engineered-products and services (eg, Honeywell). He is an expert group facilitator, instructor, and developer of workflow processes and Voice of the Market inputs that accelerate commercial success. His engagements have included strategic development, business planning, problem-solving, continuous improvement, organizational design, process design and improvement, customer cognitivity workshops, and market-based product development and launch. His book "Change or Die: The Business Process Improvement Manual" from CRC Press was published internationally in 2012. Terrence completed additional graduate work in inter-cultural decision-making processes at Marquette University, is a former board member of the Product Development Managers’ Association, and a long-time member of the IAF (International Association of Facilitators), MFNA (Midwest Facilitators Network Association), TMAC (Technology Management Association of Chicago) and WFS (World Future Society). Most importantly, Terrence is an effective listener and equally adept at teaching FAST classes as well as galvanizing consensus around complex issues for organizations and groups.

6 Responses to Facilitating Crucial Conversations

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