This letter was received in response to a question Joseph Grenny answered in the May 16, 2011 Crucial Skills Newsletter titled, “Don’t Pass the Buck.”
Your response to my question was very helpful because of your comments on the kind of culture I would create if I intervened every time someone came running to me with a concern. I was not trying to avoid a “confrontation” with an issue, but in this case I would be enabling a person who likes to manipulate others through my authority. Furthermore, I knew that this person’s version of the story was almost always quite different from that of others.
I have taken an opportunity to talk to my direct reports about the importance of talking to each other when issues arise. I know that they often worry about these conversations, but most of the time, these conversations are about relatively small things that will make our company run better. Still, having the conversations can be stressful for some people. We have been emphasizing that as we use Crucial Conversations techniques, the atmosphere is conducive to both parties reaching understanding.
The individual who I am most concerned about has not changed her basic tactics. She still wants to work behind the scenes. For example, there was a dispute while I was on vacation, and when I returned, she wanted to have a meeting to tell me all about it. In this case, I decided it was best to get both parties in the room at the same time and ask them to explain the chronology of events and what they were thinking as events took place in a factual way. This took out the part of the conversation where Party A tells how Party B did something because they wanted to undermine them (stories made up in their mind).
In this case, the relationship was already strained, and they needed a referee to make sure it was a clean conversation. The individual I have a problem with did not like this one bit. I am now stuck with the problem of dealing with a person who does a great job 90 to 95 percent of the time but causes relationship issues with her fellow managers. As a manager, I have to keep working through the situations—trying to teach your art! I must say that your book is the most helpful management tool I have ever come across. Management and leadership are about relationships, and Crucial Conversations is so practical and earthy. It is easier to apply than anything I have ever read.
Carry Your Own Water