From the Road

From the Road: Deciding to Decide

Steve WillisSteve Willis is a Master Trainer and Vice President of Professional Services at VitalSmarts.

From the Road

Recently, I was in the back of the room (no, I was not asked to sit there—at least not this time) of a training session. I was watching Angela as she worked her way through the material. She was working well with the group and doing a nice job of engaging them with the material.

After lunch on the first day, her class found themselves wrapped up in a fascinating discussion. They were engaged. They were applying the material to themselves and pulling poor Angela off her schedule. Time began to fly. The first ten minutes of discussion quickly doubled. Twenty minutes behind and they were still interested in continuing on. Angela paused to ask, “Wow, this seems valuable. Should we spend more time on this, or should we move on to the next concept?”

While this is a great question, she addressed it to the wrong audience. She should have directed it to herself. She was asking the group to make a decision without all the information to do so. They don’t know what they’re giving up in order to spend more time where they are. Yes, there are ways to make up time, and yet so many times what happens is the sections toward the end of the training are shortened—sometimes to the point of being non-recognizable. You condense the heck out of the materials, and in the end, the participants suffer.

Participants need you, the facilitator, to make these types of decisions. Instead of asking the group and allowing them to make the decision, solicit input and make the decision yourself. At times, you’ll decide to spend the extra time, and other times you’ll decide to move forward in the material. But you, the facilitator, need to decide to decide.

Trainer QA

How can I help participants address the right crucial conversation?

Dave AngelDave Angel is a Master Trainer.

QMy participants often ask how they can be certain if they are really addressing the right crucial conversation. I’d appreciate any insights on how to effectively answer this question.

A Great question! If our ultimate goal in dialogue is to produce results and strengthen relationships, we need to ensure we are holding the right conversation. But just because we are talking, doesn’t mean we are holding the right conversation.

Think about the last time you were frustrated with a conversation that didn’t go well. Did you end up feeling like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day”; holding the same conversation over and over but expecting different results? If you did, you were probably holding the wrong conversation.

Another way you know you are holding the wrong conversation is when the other person continues to go to silence or violence. You need to be able to recognize that the conditions of dialogue are failing and work to restore safety. We also go astray when we focus on the wrong issue.

One of my favorite methods for focusing on the right conversation is to utilize the skill-set of CPR. As you prepare to dialogue, think about what is most important to you and what you really want the outcome to be.

Sometimes we need to talk about a specific, one-time occurrence and so we focus on the Content; what was said and done. If we find there is a recurrent problem we can then take it to a deeper level and address the Pattern of behavior. If you’ve addressed the Content and the Pattern of behavior and you still aren’t getting results you can take it to the deepest level and focus on how it is impacting the Relationship.

When you are trying to determine at what level to enter the conversation, ask yourself: “What’s most important to me?” Is it a one-time occurrence, a pattern of behavior, or something that is really impacting the relationship? If you are unsure, I always encourage people to start with Content. If you find you’re not getting results, look for a Pattern of behavior. If you still find yourself stuck, focus on how the Relationship is suffering.

The next time you find you’re not getting the desired results or wonder if you are holding the right conversation, consider using CPR. I find this important skill-set helpful in getting back to dialogue, producing results, and strengthening relationships