Last Thursday and Friday I had the privilege of facilitating a Crucial Conversations workshop with a group of Strategy professionals in the Los Angeles area, CA with my friend and colleague Michael Rochelle.

This was the 16th session there for me, and I just love doing this work! It’s an intense two days jam-packed with useful materials designed to equip participants with sharper communication skills to increase desired results at home and at work. The workshop, designed by the company Vital Smarts, is very interactive, has many supportive videos to model the skills, and lots of practice and role playing. I love facilitating this content and hearing about the positive changes participants report when they use their newly acquired skills.

One such example comes by way of Stefan Nguyen, who participated in a January workshop. Already a very accomplished professional who has written a book called (dot).Wealth: Value Creation and Capture in the Digital Economy, he was an eloquent communicator who exhibited both high IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional intelligence). After the January workshop, he mentioned he’d gotten a few useful nuggets out of the workshop and planned to put them to use. A few weeks after that, Stefan reached out and said he’d created a Crucial Conversations journal to track his interest in having a Crucial Conversation with someone, how it went, and what he learned about himself in the process. What a brilliant way to internalize and personally implement the learning! Furthermore, keeping this journal also allows Stefan to track his own improvements and keep himself honest about his personal and professional relationships and stay on target to achieve his goals.

Here’s what he realized after journaling for a few weeks:

1) Working a Crucial Conversation section into the daily journal is useful, as it keeps things light and natural, noting down conversations we should have had and/or those we should plan to have.
2) The prep for those we decide to have is the most useful, as they help remove the roadblocks (e.g., “stories”) and create guardrails for productive discussions.
3) The easier we make it for ourselves to have those Crucial Conversations, the more likely they are to happen, because it seems that we have a human tendency to avoid (or rationalize to avoid) the “heavy” conversations.
4) The more “normal” and “light” the Crucial Conversations are, the more we are used to them, and thus reinforce the ability to recognize when we need the Crucial Conversations, the healthiness/value of having them, and the ease at which we can approach them. So even for “Crucial Conversations” it is always good to start small and build from there, e.g., a simple apology or a quick clearing up of misunderstanding.
5) After a few Crucial Conversations, insights of patterns in our behavior may emerge, e.g., reading too much “antagonistic intent” from others (i.e., “the world is out to get me”), sweeping frustration under the category of “what else can I do?” or “they just don’t care” (i.e., “victim mentality”). These patterns can point to tremendously valuable change in our mindsets, as well as deeper understanding and appreciation for facts and objectivity.

Happily, based on points 1 thru 4, the Crucial Conversation journal that he has developed can be made very simple:

1) It’s just a Small Section of Notes in our daily journal
2) It just lists Crucial Conversations we should have had and should plan on having, with some Prep Notes for each Crucial Conversation
3) The Prep Notes can include Target Date/Time/Occasion, Conversation Opening(s), and One Key Goal for the Crucial Conversation
4) The Outcome Notes on the date the Crucial Conversation actually took place referencing the original date when we prepped for the Crucial Conversation

Stefan goes on to say that the best thing about this approach is that he found it to be very natural and light maintenance, and it can become almost second nature, to the point that one doesn’t have to wait till the end of the day (or whenever one does his/her journal) to jot down the Crucial Conversation notes.

Michael and I of course were positively thrilled Stefan had taken his learning so personally and seriously, and we invited him to share this journaling approach with the last workshop participant class we had last week. I thought it was great that the participants could hear from a peer who had already gone through the workshop and understand how the skills he’d learned had so helped him. In other words, it wasn’t just us “kool-aid drinking” facilitators saying how important the skills are – it was one of their own who shared results and an additional easy way the participants could further benefit from the teachings.  I have heard other stories about participants from this company have utilized the Crucial Conversations they have learned, and even heard the blow-by-blow of the Crucial Conversations held! But Stefan was the first to come forward and interact with us on this applied level.  Thank you Stefan!