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Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations
Our lives are a series of relationships, the
success or failure of which happen one
conversation at a time. Extraordinary leadership
is the result of having fierce conversations with
ourselves first and then with others. Only then
can any of us hope to provide the caliber of
leadership that our organizations need and
desire.
Hard conversations are about being
true to oneself, doing what is right
for students, and shaping an
environment that supports learning.
~Jennifer Abrams
What hard conversation aren’t you
having?
• What is bothering you?
• Why is it bothering you?
• Why haven’t you said anything yet?
• What might you give up if you say something?
• What is the worst thing that could happen?
Why do we avoid hard conversations?
1. Desire to please – to be liked and respected
REALIZE: The nice thing to do IS speak up!
2. Personal safety-avoid physical/emotional pain--
scary/aggressive colleague
REALIZE: Only civil, respectful dialogue is
acceptable—focus on that to remain calm as you
communicate this expectation to others
Why do we avoid hard conversations?
3. Personal Comfort—no waves, not worth hassle
REALIZE: Short term personal discomfort for me
will likely pale in comparison to long-term gains for
everyone
4. Fatigue – I don’t have enough energy/emotion
left to keep fighting this one
REALIZE: This tired, tired feeling is what some
students experience daily as they face this
situation—it is worth it on their behalf to say
something!
Why do we avoid hard conversations?
5. No Sense of Urgency—Don’t make a big deal,
give it time
REALIZE: Trust your gut/the hair on your neck/your
inkling—gather data
6. Waiting for the perfect time—when is there
enough in the emotional bank account that you
can withdraw to be able to give feedback that
might be considered critical?
REALIZE: Don’t over think it! Give yourself a
timeline to plan the conversation and a deadline to
have it!
Why do we avoid hard conversations?
7. Worried about overwhelming someone who is
already struggling
REALIZE: Our job is to protect and serve students. We
might consider how we can help the teacher improve
so that he/she feels less rather than more
overwhelmed.
8. It’s a small town, and we all know each other.
REALIZE: Ask yourself how like it is that your hard
conversation will have lasting consequences on your
relationship, and remind yourself if you are speaking up
on behalf of students, it’s worth it.
Why do we avoid hard conversations?
9. He’s a nice person./She didn’t mean it.
REALIZE: Consider stepping up onto the
balcony. What would you see as an outside
observer in this situation?
3 principles:
• Get Clear
• Craft
• Communicate
Before stepping off the conversation cliff, prepare yourself!
• Is this a good time to take a
risk and pose a challenge?
• Do I have to say anything or
will the problem fix itself on its own?
• How intense is this need? Does it need to be handled now, or
can it wait?
• Am I in the right frame of mind to say something, or will I
become too emotional?
• Is this the time the teacher to hear this? Can s/he hear this
now or is her/his stress level so high my message wouldn’t be
heard?
• Do I have enough information and accurate information about
this situation?
• Do I prioritize this conversation before another one?
• Who might need to know about the conversation before it takes place (my
supervisor/district office? HR? Other?)?
• What are the worst and best scenarios for what might happen after?
• How high are the stakes for the different parties involved? Is this a
discussion worth having?
• If I speak up, who or what else will this affect? What is the ripple effect?
• Are the negative effects greater than the potential gains if I choose to
speak out?
• How important is it for students that I bring this up?
• Is what is going on in the classroom unsafe or damaging to students?
• Is this a contractual situation? What rights do I have? What rights does she
have?
• How vulnerable am I willing to get?
• Is this imperative to talk about or just somewhat important?
• What would happen if I didn’t have the conversation?
How promising
are the hoped-for
results?
Have I thought through enough
what the real problem is so I have
articulated it well? Has it come up
before? Is it a pattern?
If I bring up this issue, do I
have an action plan? Can I
support the teacher
through the changes I
would like to see made?
Has this been
addressed at another
time? If so, how does
that information
connect to the
current situation?
Do I have a game plan
in mind?
 Are there better alternative responses that would pose a less
significant risk?
 Has this teacher been given the opportunity to discover the
issue on her own, and does the teacher recognize it as an
issue? Have I tried to bring it up before, and what was the
response? Is there a way I could help the teacher see the
matter as a concern without going into “hard conversation”
mode?
 Can this issue be brought up via e-mail or another medium?
Which medium would be most effective? Does it need to be
said face-to-face?
 What am I trying to accomplish? If I speak up, will I move
toward or away from that goal?
 What are some other ways of thinking about this issue?
Exploring Options
The majority of the work in any difficult conversation
is work you do on yourself.
On your planning tool…
Get Clear!
• What language can you “borrow” to make
your conversation more focused and less
subjective?
• What does the job description say (classified
employees)?
• What do the standards say (teachers)?
• What do staff, student, parent, and/or
volunteer handbooks say?
Make a Plan
• Identify what you would like to see.
• Consider what the teacher will need to make
it happen.
• Consider what you will need to do to support
the teacher and what resources you may need
to make available.
Hold the conversation…
1. Set the tone and purpose
2. Get to the point and name it
professionally (avoid judgment and
adjectives)
3. Give specific examples—share ONE or
TWO of the most current
4. Describe the effect of this behavior on
the school, colleagues, students
5. State your wish to resolve the issue and
open the discussion
Angie, your content knowledge about
history is second to none. (Set Tone). We
need to figure out how to get students
more actively engaged in your class. (Get to
the point). In the last few observations, I
have noted that 75% of your students are
on their phones. During one observation, I
noted students were copying notes from
the power point, but when I asked each of
5 students what they were learning, each
essentially said, “I don’t really know. I’m
just writing down what’s up there.”
(Specific Examples).
The problem is that when students aren’t
engaged, they likely aren’t learning. When they
aren’t engaged or learning, they are at higher
risk of performing poorly or dropping out
altogether. They need time and opportunity to
interact with the information in authentic and
meaningful ways and to provide you with
feedback so that you will know if they have
learned. (Describe the effect of the behavior).
To structure more discussion and gather more
feedback from students represents a shift for
you. What do you think? (Invite the
conversation)
A few tips…
• Acknowledge emotional energy – yours and theirs – and
direct it towards a useful purpose.
• Know and return to your purpose at difficult moments.
• Don’t take verbal attacks personally. Help your partner
come back to center.
• Don’t assume they can see things from your point of view.
• Practice the conversation with a mentor/colleague before
holding the real one.
• Mentally practice the conversation. See various
possibilities and visualize yourself handling them with
ease. Envision the outcome you’re hoping for.

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Having Hard Conversations

  • 1.
  • 2. Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations Our lives are a series of relationships, the success or failure of which happen one conversation at a time. Extraordinary leadership is the result of having fierce conversations with ourselves first and then with others. Only then can any of us hope to provide the caliber of leadership that our organizations need and desire.
  • 3. Hard conversations are about being true to oneself, doing what is right for students, and shaping an environment that supports learning. ~Jennifer Abrams
  • 4.
  • 5. What hard conversation aren’t you having? • What is bothering you? • Why is it bothering you? • Why haven’t you said anything yet? • What might you give up if you say something? • What is the worst thing that could happen?
  • 6. Why do we avoid hard conversations? 1. Desire to please – to be liked and respected REALIZE: The nice thing to do IS speak up! 2. Personal safety-avoid physical/emotional pain-- scary/aggressive colleague REALIZE: Only civil, respectful dialogue is acceptable—focus on that to remain calm as you communicate this expectation to others
  • 7. Why do we avoid hard conversations? 3. Personal Comfort—no waves, not worth hassle REALIZE: Short term personal discomfort for me will likely pale in comparison to long-term gains for everyone 4. Fatigue – I don’t have enough energy/emotion left to keep fighting this one REALIZE: This tired, tired feeling is what some students experience daily as they face this situation—it is worth it on their behalf to say something!
  • 8. Why do we avoid hard conversations? 5. No Sense of Urgency—Don’t make a big deal, give it time REALIZE: Trust your gut/the hair on your neck/your inkling—gather data 6. Waiting for the perfect time—when is there enough in the emotional bank account that you can withdraw to be able to give feedback that might be considered critical? REALIZE: Don’t over think it! Give yourself a timeline to plan the conversation and a deadline to have it!
  • 9. Why do we avoid hard conversations? 7. Worried about overwhelming someone who is already struggling REALIZE: Our job is to protect and serve students. We might consider how we can help the teacher improve so that he/she feels less rather than more overwhelmed. 8. It’s a small town, and we all know each other. REALIZE: Ask yourself how like it is that your hard conversation will have lasting consequences on your relationship, and remind yourself if you are speaking up on behalf of students, it’s worth it.
  • 10. Why do we avoid hard conversations? 9. He’s a nice person./She didn’t mean it. REALIZE: Consider stepping up onto the balcony. What would you see as an outside observer in this situation?
  • 11. 3 principles: • Get Clear • Craft • Communicate
  • 12. Before stepping off the conversation cliff, prepare yourself!
  • 13. • Is this a good time to take a risk and pose a challenge? • Do I have to say anything or will the problem fix itself on its own? • How intense is this need? Does it need to be handled now, or can it wait? • Am I in the right frame of mind to say something, or will I become too emotional? • Is this the time the teacher to hear this? Can s/he hear this now or is her/his stress level so high my message wouldn’t be heard? • Do I have enough information and accurate information about this situation? • Do I prioritize this conversation before another one?
  • 14. • Who might need to know about the conversation before it takes place (my supervisor/district office? HR? Other?)? • What are the worst and best scenarios for what might happen after? • How high are the stakes for the different parties involved? Is this a discussion worth having? • If I speak up, who or what else will this affect? What is the ripple effect? • Are the negative effects greater than the potential gains if I choose to speak out? • How important is it for students that I bring this up? • Is what is going on in the classroom unsafe or damaging to students? • Is this a contractual situation? What rights do I have? What rights does she have? • How vulnerable am I willing to get? • Is this imperative to talk about or just somewhat important? • What would happen if I didn’t have the conversation?
  • 15. How promising are the hoped-for results? Have I thought through enough what the real problem is so I have articulated it well? Has it come up before? Is it a pattern? If I bring up this issue, do I have an action plan? Can I support the teacher through the changes I would like to see made? Has this been addressed at another time? If so, how does that information connect to the current situation? Do I have a game plan in mind?
  • 16.  Are there better alternative responses that would pose a less significant risk?  Has this teacher been given the opportunity to discover the issue on her own, and does the teacher recognize it as an issue? Have I tried to bring it up before, and what was the response? Is there a way I could help the teacher see the matter as a concern without going into “hard conversation” mode?  Can this issue be brought up via e-mail or another medium? Which medium would be most effective? Does it need to be said face-to-face?  What am I trying to accomplish? If I speak up, will I move toward or away from that goal?  What are some other ways of thinking about this issue? Exploring Options
  • 17.
  • 18.
  • 19. The majority of the work in any difficult conversation is work you do on yourself.
  • 20. On your planning tool…
  • 21. Get Clear! • What language can you “borrow” to make your conversation more focused and less subjective? • What does the job description say (classified employees)? • What do the standards say (teachers)? • What do staff, student, parent, and/or volunteer handbooks say?
  • 22. Make a Plan • Identify what you would like to see. • Consider what the teacher will need to make it happen. • Consider what you will need to do to support the teacher and what resources you may need to make available.
  • 23. Hold the conversation… 1. Set the tone and purpose 2. Get to the point and name it professionally (avoid judgment and adjectives) 3. Give specific examples—share ONE or TWO of the most current 4. Describe the effect of this behavior on the school, colleagues, students 5. State your wish to resolve the issue and open the discussion
  • 24. Angie, your content knowledge about history is second to none. (Set Tone). We need to figure out how to get students more actively engaged in your class. (Get to the point). In the last few observations, I have noted that 75% of your students are on their phones. During one observation, I noted students were copying notes from the power point, but when I asked each of 5 students what they were learning, each essentially said, “I don’t really know. I’m just writing down what’s up there.” (Specific Examples).
  • 25. The problem is that when students aren’t engaged, they likely aren’t learning. When they aren’t engaged or learning, they are at higher risk of performing poorly or dropping out altogether. They need time and opportunity to interact with the information in authentic and meaningful ways and to provide you with feedback so that you will know if they have learned. (Describe the effect of the behavior). To structure more discussion and gather more feedback from students represents a shift for you. What do you think? (Invite the conversation)
  • 26. A few tips… • Acknowledge emotional energy – yours and theirs – and direct it towards a useful purpose. • Know and return to your purpose at difficult moments. • Don’t take verbal attacks personally. Help your partner come back to center. • Don’t assume they can see things from your point of view. • Practice the conversation with a mentor/colleague before holding the real one. • Mentally practice the conversation. See various possibilities and visualize yourself handling them with ease. Envision the outcome you’re hoping for.

Hinweis der Redaktion

  1. Not investigative conversation—the ones that make you unsettled. You have the information you need to have the conversation.
  2. Note on planning tool.
  3. 45 min mark