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].


Leads, Lags, WIGs and a Whirlwind- The 4DX Model

I’m one week away from completing my 5th graduate course in Digital Learning and Leading, and over the course of the last 7 months, I’ve learned SO much about what it means to be a Digital Leader in the classroom, in an organization, and even in a district.  At the completion of my current course, I will have spent the entire 5 weeks reviewing different change implementation strategies to apply to my innovation plan.  It’s quite interesting to look back at my implementation outline and see how it has evolved and changed.

The information I’ve been soaking in the past couple of weeks stems from a book written by Sean Covey, Jim Huling and Chris McChesney entitled, The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals.  In a nutshell, what the authors have laid out for us are a precise set of rules that can put any plan into action.  I think what I love most about this is that the authors understand that people have great ideas- whether they be personal or work related goals, people really do want to change for the better, and when they can’t reach those goals, it isn’t because their dumb or lazy.  It’s because their busy.  When I first read this, I felt like the skies opened up and the heavens were singing praise.  In my mind, I was like, “Yessss!  Someone finally understands that I didn’t just quit, or forget about it!”.  What the authors are referring to when they say this, is that people get caught up in their day to day operations- whether it be lesson planning, meetings, parent conversations, or dealing with child behavioral issues- and often times, this urgency hinders their ability to really put a plan into action.  This is called a whirlwind.  We all have one, and sometimes, we just need a little help executing our goals in the midst of our whirlwind.

This is exactly what the 4 Disciplines of Execution were created to do.  There are rules to follow to get us to where we want to go, but the hard part is that these rules must be followed in order for us to succeed.  If you think back to the Influencer strategy I discussed, you could ask yourself, “Wasn’t that a plan for successful execution as well”?  Yes, but the difference between the Influencer strategy and 4DX is that the Influencer model focuses more on the psychological aspect of implementing change, and 4DX is all about the logistics.  I have taken a liking to both strategies, and understand now, how they can complement each other.  For me, it is not one or the other.  Personal, social, and structural influence is just as important as the following necessary steps.

The Stages of Change

Stage 1- Getting Clear:  I’ve gone over my innovation plan countless times to make sure I am as thorough as possible.  I’ve crossed all my t’s and dotted all my i’s, and I’ve developed a clear and concise WIG (Wildly Important Goal) that you will see below.  I acknowledge that I need to be as transparent as possible with my team and I will need to make myself readily available for assistance.

Stage 2- Lauch:  I am preparing for the lauch stage, as I type this blog post.  I am 10 days away from the first day of school, and as that date approaches I am meeting with my Director of Fine Arts and my fellow technology leaders to ensure that I am set to pilot this new program at our school.  I feel as if this stage is super important for me, because as I begin this year long pilot in my class, I will need to make sure I keep my administrators and middle school colleagues in the loop of the progress I will be making throughout the year.

Stage 3- Adoption:  I am anticipating some resistance to my plan, not from my administrators, but from some colleagues.  I expect that resistance to begin to fade away during this pilot year, once they can clearly see and understand how the following disciplines will lead to the successful execution of the WIG.  This, coupled with the student excitement of creating something that is personalized to their liking and that has the benefits of getting them into the schools they want to go to, is sure to get all teachers on board with the plan.

Stage 4- Optimization:  In this stage, I will expect teachers to be more purposeful in their own classrooms and to be active leaders.  As they begin to produce successful results in their classrooms, they will begin to look for ways in which we can improve our plan.  How can we continue to make it better?

Stage 5- Habits:  Until we have reached this stage, when the the 4 Disciplines of Execution have become second nature to us, can we call ourselves winners.  I believe once we meet our goal, others will be more open to the idea of risk taking.

Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important Goal

I talked earlier of the whirlwind and how it can cause us to loose sight of our goals.  Another important point I’ve taken away from 4DX, is that we should only have 1-2 set goals that we want to achieve.  I found this statistic, taken from the embedded video at the bottom of this post, to be very interesting.

goalsvisualThe more big goals you have on your plate, the harder it is to achieve any of those, so it it important to focus on 1-2 goals so that the chances of success are higher.  My Wildly Important Goal (WIG) is to have all middle school Presbyterian teachers designing and planning appropriate lessons that will enable student work to be uploaded onto an ePortfolio platform by May 2018.

This needs to continue to be the top priority, and results will be measured in a variety of ways.  It is also important to share successes and exemplars in all-faculty and/or division meetings to serve as recognition and inspiration on the usages of the ePortfolio in the classroom.

Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures

Lag and Lead Measures are two terms that the authors introduce to us in the 4DX book.  The terms are new to me, but the concept make total sense.  Simply put, the lag measure measures the goal and the lead measures are the important steps that need to be taken that can get us to the goal.  My lag measure is to have all middle school students graduate from the 8th grade with a solid ePortfolio.  The success of the lag measure rides on the execution of the following lead measures:

  1. Teacher Modeling- Teachers must model continuous use of the ePortfolio in each of their subjects by utilizing their own sites in classroom instruction and lessons.
  2. Collaboration and Accountability- Teachers must regularly partner with technology teachers and leaders for effective ePortfolio project designs.
  3. Evaluation and Grading- Incorporate technology integration grading criteria by evaluating student work in ePortfolios each quarter.

Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

The importance of creating a compelling scoreboard is vital.  We want to our teachers to feel like they have a chance to win, and an effective way to do that is to create a visual for them.  It’s important to keep in mind that the scoreboard needs to be simple, and not overwhelming with a bunch of statistics, and we want to make sure we have it placed in a location that is visible and/or can be accessed by everyone.  I’ve created the following example of a scoreboard that I would like to use for our ePortfolio implementation, and you’ll notice that I’ve included what the scoreboard might look like once all middle school teachers are involved.   There will be 4 different scoreboards for 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades, and each grade level’s scoreboard will have the number of assignments submitted and the teachers for each subject.  I plan on creating a tangible scoreboard that will be placed in the middle school hallway in between the two displays of framed student work.  I will be placing it in this specific location so that it is in view where everyone, even students could see it. That way, even though the students aren’t the ones being measured, they, too, will begin rooting for their teachers.


 Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability

We will need to make sure we are intentional about scheduling regular meetings with all parties involved that will be helping make this initiative happen.  During this pilot year, I will need to meet briefly with my Director of Fine Arts, Academic Dean, and leaders of the Covenant team on a weekly basis to touch base and talk about ways we can improve the “standings” on the scoreboard.  We will specifically reflect on last week’s measures, review the scoreboard to see if our lead and lag measures are making progress, and finally, we will need to make commitments for the upcoming week.  These will take place during PLC Mondays, to ensure that it meets everyone’s schedules, and will only be about 15-20 minutes long.


As I conclude this post, I hope it is evident how the 4DX strategy can help us all execute our goals in the midst of our everyday whirlwind.  I’m including the video below to help with your understanding of  how the 4DX strategy works.

Click here to access a full interactive view of my TACKK board.


Covey, F. (2012). Executive Overview of the 4 Disciplines of Execution [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZR2Ixm0QQE&feature=youtu.be

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your 
Wildly Important Goals. London: Simon & Schuster.