Fierce Conversations by Sue Scott

Fierce Conversations by Sue ScottFierce Conversations for Managing Challenging Employees

Do you have a member of your team who is under performing? Do you know how to tackle the problem? Are you losing sleep over it? This is a problem that concerns many business leaders and for many dealing with the issue can lead to the employee staying in the business far longer than they should. It is only when the situation becomes intolerable that some business leaders take action. Sue Scott recognised this problem and published the book “Fierce Conversations” in which she describes a simple process.

To help business leaders deal with this issue, Susan Scott developed the notion of a ‘fierce conversation’. Scott argues that as a team leader, you will necessarily need to address aspects of potential underperformance. Furthermore, you will need to do it in an appropriate, timely and direct manner. Ambiguity and delay compromises the high quality that is the entitlement of your clients, pupils or other stakeholders.

Scott characterises a?fierce conversation as one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real.

The following description is adapted from Scott’s work. Scott suggests that:

  • our lives succeed, or fail, one conversation at a time
  • the conversation is the relationship
  • all conversations are with, and sometimes involve, other people

A ‘fierce conversation’ is the conversation you are unlikely be looking forward to having. It is the type of conversation you know you need to have with one of your team and?which you know is likely to be difficult for both you and them. You are likely to feel strongly about the issue and your emotions will be raised. It is almost certain that what you are going to have to say will result in an emotional response from the employee.

Scott provides the following seven-stage model to take you through the initial stages?of the conversation.

The steps to take are as follows (write a script so that you can rehearse it):

  1. Name the issue. There should only be one issue at a time. If there is more than one issue, this is a mark of failure because you should have dealt with each issue as they arose.
  2. Give one particular example of the person’s behaviour that concerns you and which will allow you to focus on the specific issue you wish to raise.
  3. Do not suppress your emotions. You should acknowledge your emotions and how this issue is affecting you.
  4. State very clearly why this issue is of significance to the organisation and what is at risk. This may be painful to address but it must be done.
  5. Acknowledge your personal responsibility for the issue. If you have contributed to the problem, say so, but do not make polite statements about being responsible for something you have not done! It is important not to omit this step.
  6. State that you wish to work with them to solve the problem. Indicate that you wish to move forward rather than to apportion blame.
  7. Ask the person to give their views on the issue. From now on, your role is to listen carefully and attentively. This is not the time to defend your earlier statements. You have invited them to tell you how they are feeling. Your task is to listen to them.

Accept that reaction will usually go through 5 classical “bereavement” stages – Shock, denial, anger, depression and acceptance – and let this process flow. Stay calm!

The fundamental principle underlying the notion of a ‘fierce conversation’ is that the emotions each participant feels should be openly acknowledged, stated and dealt with. A ‘fierce conversation’ may be difficult and uncomfortable for both sides but this has to be faced up to.

Fierce conversations also bring responsibilities. Once you start a ‘fierce conversation’, you have to stick with the issues it gives rise to and not leave the individual to deal with the aftermath. This does not mean coming to a cosy accommodation, simply that you continue to work with the individual until the issue is resolved.

The importance of this last point cannot be over-emphasised as it touches on both ethics and motivation. You need to be crystal clear about your motivation in raising issues and the ethics of so doing.?As a?leader, you also need to be seen to be acting in an ethical manner at all times. Hence, ‘power trips’ and ‘coercive’ or ‘bullying’ tactics will never be found in your management repertoire.

To obtain the book go to: Fierce Conversations by Sue Scott

Comments are closed.