Tackling the Crucial Conversational Roadblock

When it comes to bringing about organizational change, in any company or organization, leaders are faced with many roadblocks that challenge the success of their change efforts.  Whether it be bringing down company costs, improving customer satisfaction scores, or changing a school’s assessment strategies, many times, this idea of change is greeted with hesitation from coworkers and colleagues, alike.  Why?

A major roadblock to get through during any organizational change effort is the way in which we approach those delicate, and often times, difficult conversations with our friends and colleagues, regarding the need for change.  As George Bernard Shaw put it,

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that is has taken place”

In their book, Crucial Conversations, Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Granny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler point out that these crucial conversations are interactions that happen to all of us and can be about any topic.  What makes these conversations important are that the end results affect our daily lives and routines.  There are three components that determine when a conversation has gone from “normal” to crucial.

  1. Opinions Vary– We all come with our own differing opinions on the topic from past, personal experiences and observations.
  2. Stakes Are High– Our relationships, jobs and successes are at stake.
  3. Emotions Run Strong– As a result of our differing opinions and the components at stake, we have very strong emotions tied to the topic at hand.



Often times, these conversations can come out of nowhere, and catch us off guard.  How we handle these conversations determine whether we succeed or fail in our intentions.   The idea, however, is to get people talking, and the way to do that is to create an atmosphere in which others feel comfortable sharing their own opinions and ideas regardless of their rank, or position in the company.  This is referred to as the Pool of Shared Meaning.


“In a sense, the Pool of Shared Meaning is a measure of a group’s IQ.  The larger the shared pool, the smarter the decisions” (Patterson, Granny, McMillan, Switzler, 2012).  The goal is to make the pool grow, by allowing peer contributions.

As the new school year approaches, and we get closer piloting our innovation plan, I realize that some crucial conversations are going to continue to take place with my colleagues and administrators.  It will be important to remember that when these conversations come up, to start with the heart and to keep our ultimate goal at the forefront.  Although there might be differences of opinions in how to achieve our goal, we need to remember our why.

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Created using https://www.tackk.com/board.  Click here for a full interactive view of the above TACKK board.

Other key factors to address in order to make sure we continue to have these crucial conversations include making sure the floor is always open for comments, suggestions AND opinions.  It’s one thing to talk the talk when it comes to encouraging peer contribution and 360 degree coaching.  It’s another thing to walk the walk.

Collectively, my studies over the past 5 weeks have provided valuable tools and information in how to begin the implementation process of ePortfolios in middle school.  The Influencer Model allowed me to reevaluate my desired result and identify vital behaviors that must take place in order for us to be successful with the ePortfolio plan.  The Six Sources of Influence proved to be  a powerful model that required us to analyze our personal, social and structural environments.


The 4DX Plan was my favorite strategy plan to study.  This, I felt, could be my roadmap to success for just about anything.  Simply put, the authors of  The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals realize that people are busy.  We are not just failures, or people that give up when the going gets tough.  They understand that life gets crazy, and at times, is what sidetracks us from achieving our goals.  We are overwhelmed and wrapped up in our whirlwind that is life.  But, with the 4 Disciplines that they have laid out for us, we really can reach those goals.

  1. Focus on the Wildly Important
  2. Act on Lead Measures
  3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
  4. Create a Cadence of Accountability


The other day, I shared with some classmates that our return to school for the new year was this past Wednesday.  We always have a week long of in service and on our first day back, we had some wonderful discussions and PD.  Take a look at what our leaders had us doing.

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I know it’s hard to see, but do you see what it says there?  We did a couple of activities, focusing on “Situational” Conversations that need to be had.  We are a Presbyterian School, so this was in terms of spiritual conversations that had to do with our school’s core values, but nonetheless, we were in small groups and were each given hypothetical, but very real, scenarios.  The idea was to talk about how we would approach these situations and conversations, keeping our core values in mind.  Some of these were very uncomfortable situations, but how are we to address them while modeling the following core values?

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It was a great day of PD, and what our Speaking God’s Love team expressed was these are the types of crucial conversations we are going to be faced with, and we can approach these situations in one of three ways:

“We can avoid them.  We can face them and handle them poorly, or we can face them and handle them well” (Patterson, Granny, McMillan, Switzler, 2012).

Let’s choose to handle them well.



Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change: 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Kshatri, J. (2016, February 28). Crucial conversations [Blog post]. Retrieved from Pulse website:https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ crucial-conversations-jay-kshatri

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial Conversations- Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High (2nd ed.) [nookbook].


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