All posts by Barbara Hauser

Trainer QA

E for Encourage Testing

We’re full steam into Lesson 4 on STATE My Path. In my experience, participants are eager to put everything together into a formula that will permit them to speak up in tough situations. We’ve thought the issue through, planned and practiced, controlled our emotions and focused on what we really want so we can be persuasive by using our powerful reasoning as we STA!

And we should be excited! But let’s stop there for just a minute, because we don’t want our new level of enthusiasm to get in the way and shut the other person down. Since we know from the get-go that there are different views on the subject, we also need to prepare to meet the other person where they are—maybe a bit caught off guard and apprehensive about our motive or where the conversation might be going.

Enter the “how” skills: talk tentatively and encourage testing. That E isn’t tacked on just to make a clever acronym, it’s there for a reason. Consider the following when you use and teach this powerful skill.

1. Your STA is your best guess, your hypothesis about the way things are. How do you show concern for the feelings and opinions of the other person? Do so by clearly articulating that you’re so interested in dialogue they should speak up especially when they disagree. (e.g., “If you see it differently, I’d love to hear your view.”)

2. If you are the subject matter expert or the problem solver of the issue you’re discussing, be extra careful to use E. The other person might be overwhelmed by your logic and expertise. Give them space by encouraging them to challenge your position. (e.g., “How does this sound/look from your perspective?”)

3. Even when spoken tentatively, a good STA paints a detailed picture of where you’re coming from. We might assume that the other person will just jump in and engage with us, but we need to give them room to formulate their response. E gives us the chance to pause and make it clear that we’re not so much interested in being right as in having a clear picture of the entire situation. (e.g., “If I’m missing something, or haven’t gotten it right, I’m interested in hearing what that is.”)

4. Let’s face it—stopping after STA can seem a little awkward. One way to give both parties a little extra courage is to use the E skill. (e.g., “What’s your view? I’d really like to hear it.”)

Look for ways to teach your participants that it’s our responsibility to get all the meaning into the pool—and that the skill encourage testing helps us do just that.

Trainer QA

Trainer Q&A: How do you balance discussion with staying on track?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara HauserBarbara Hauser is a Master Trainer.
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This article was originally published October 6, 2011.

Q How do you balance discussion (i.e., answering questions, debriefing, taking stories from participants) with staying on track with material—especially if it is a really good discussion?

A This is such a good question. I like to do two things. Right up front, when we establish the ground rules for participation in the program, I say that I’m going to assume the role of discussion leader—for the purpose of keeping us on track so that we can get to the practical, skill-building part of the program. I’ll add that there’s often a need for folks to process the content by talking it out. To honor that, we’ve built in several small group discussions where they will have the time and space to do a lot of sharing. We do want to hear from individuals in our large-group discussions too—and that’s where I’ll keep everyone mindful of the time constraints! When we hit a point where the discussion threatens to go on too long, I’ll interrupt, acknowledge the value of what the person’s saying (e.g., “The situation you’re describing is a great example of this principle”), and add, “As the ‘time warden/discussion leader,’ let me suggest that we move on so we can get some practice using our new tools.” (Or something like that.) I find that people really appreciate it when you take a firm stand to manage the time you have together wisely and when you set things up at the beginning so it’s safe to do so.

Trainer QA

How many times should I have a conversation before I give up?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara HauserBarbara Hauser is a Master Trainer.
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Q I’ve had successful crucial conversations with someone several times now and nothing much has changed. How many more times should I have this conversation before I give up?

A I’m sure all of us have had this question come up in training in one form or another. There are many ways to approach a situation like this. A trainer colleague of mine suggests that you get specific (or real) by asking the questioner, “What specifically do you want to change?” Depending on where you are in the training, you may either refer to the question of “intent” or to the result you want to achieve.

Most of us want some behavior change to occur after having a crucial conversation—better punctuality, more participation in meetings, etc. We typically forget to clarify the expectations. Instead we ask, “How will we hold each other accountable for the change we’re committing to?” The failure to nail down who will do what by when and how we’ll follow up is often the culprit.

Another way to pursue this question is to do a “left-hand column check.” Was there residue that wasn’t dealt with in the moment that’s keeping you or the other person from feeling satisfied with the result? When the situation is persistent and has become a pattern, you might find that you’ve only peeled away one layer of the onion. So, long-standing problems might require more than one crucial conversation. The important thing is to stay focused on what we really want!