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Handling Difficult Conversations in the Dual Career Context Melissa Dorfman Director, Dual Career Services, University of Michigan Medical School & College.

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Presentation on theme: "Handling Difficult Conversations in the Dual Career Context Melissa Dorfman Director, Dual Career Services, University of Michigan Medical School & College."— Presentation transcript:

1 Handling Difficult Conversations in the Dual Career Context Melissa Dorfman Director, Dual Career Services, University of Michigan Medical School & College of Engineering June 4, 2012

2 Agenda What makes conversations difficult? – Generally – In the dual career context Structures and processes to reduce difficult conversations Tools and methods for more successful conversations

3 Conversations are difficult when… …they involve content that is contentious …they make any of those involved feel vulnerable or put self esteem at risk …we care deeply about what is being discussed or the people with whom we are discussing it …they involve issues that are important or have uncertain outcomes …we fear the outcomes of the conversation Source: Stone, D., Patton, B. and Heen, S., (2010), Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (New York, NY: Penguin).

4 Each Difficult Conversation Is Really Three Conversations What Happened / Should Happen IdentityFeelings Source: Stone et. al.

5 Complexity: Dual Career in the Middle Dual Career Function Partner Faculty Recruit Recruiting Chair Recruiting Dean University / College Leadership Unit Hiring the Partner Area Leaders Concerned Faculty Members

6 Multiple Sources of Information About Dual Career Situations Internal to the Couple Assumptions and beliefs Experiences from other institutions Different information shared with each partner External Sources Stories (direct and indirect) about other dual career situations from colleagues and personal contacts Information from chairs, search committee chairs, faculty, administrators involved in recruitment / retention

7 Range of Contexts: Potential Views of the Dual Career Function DistractionGreat Unknown Do It MyselfKey Tool

8 Part of the Job: Dual Career as a Communicator of Decisions / Information Contrary to expectations Do not meet unspoken assumptions Are surprising and for which the recipient is not prepared Ultimately have undesired implications – For recruitment or retention – For faculty life choices – For budgets

9 So What Can We Do? Processes and structures to improve communications and foster collaboration Reduce the Likelihood of Difficult Conversations Two way conversations The ladder of inference Prepare Ourselves for More Effective Conversations

10 Setting Expectations with Partners in the Initial Conversation Request resume or cv prior to initial conversation and circulate to get feedback Provide general information about dual career services at the University of Michigan Who is eligible for services? When are they eligible? What are services? Debunk myths Services are only available to a partner until a faculty recruit signs an offer letter Dual career services = placement; “you will take care of my job search for me” There are no jobs in Michigan Understand partner’s situation and job search goals Where in decision process is the couple? What are the partner’s professional goals? What are the key criteria, other than content, for a position (salary, commute, title, specific responsibilities)? Are there any timing or visa issues of which I should be aware? Will the partner need a visa? What has the partner done so far to find a job? Discuss and assign responsibilities for next steps

11 Setting Expectations with Key Internal Constituents About the Dual Career Process and Numbers Routinely update Associate Deans, department chairs, search committee chairs or other relevant administrators Plan an annual meeting or report to share data on the past year’s recruiting process Use data to highlight key points and trends, e.g., Number of dual career couples helped Percent of recruits requiring dual career help Time to hire Share best practices for working together to recruit or retain dual career couples Get the word out early that dual career help is available Communicate early and often to Director – Your help in identifying and reaching out to potential contacts is helpful, but communicating the content of these discussions to the Director is critical – Keeping the Director up to date about your search committee decisions and key time lines is critical to ensuring that we are coordinated in our efforts Respond to questions from the Director or Associate Dean in a timely way If you are hiring someone who will be a cross-departmental or cross-school hire, figure out who is on point and ensure all communications are coordinated

12 Broadening the Communications Process to Involve Key Constituents Dual Career Professional Partner Direct communications, catalogued as sent e- mail or notes Recruiting Chair, Dean, Search Committee Chair Blind copy key constituents on important communications 1 Make key constituents aware of important developments and ask for guidance on communication before sharing with the partner 2 Share timeline / data on dual career process with constituents to set expectations 3

13 Senior academic administrator with respect of chairs and search committees Knowledgeable about: – Dual career and university processes – Organizational priorities Skilled at interpersonal interactions Accessible Can get more senior administrators involved if necessary Identifying a Broker to Assist in Facilitating Progress in Dual Career Situations

14 Taking the Direct Approach to Difficult Content Set a common agenda for the conversation and then ask the other person if s/he has things to be discussed in addition to what you’ve proposed – Agree on an order for the topics of your conversation For each topic, start with the content that matters most – Avoid “easing in” to make it easier on the other person Delivering bad news: directly share the information, followed by the data and interpretations that support conclusions Making requests: avoid making a demand. Instead, invite conversation about whether what you want is appropriate. “I wonder if it would make sense…” Name difficult dynamics either in the conversation or the dual career process to make them discussable Source: Chris Argyris & Action Design; Stone et. al.

15 The Ladder of Inference Pool of Data I Select Some Data I Interpret the Data I Reach Conclusions Assumptions Influence What I Select Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.

16 Telling Your Story Clearly, With Room for Conversation Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group. Present your conclusions as your (or others’) perspective, rather than “the truth” – Goal to distinguish fact from opinion Share the source of the conclusions – Both data and assumptions May be difficult in the dual career arena if you are delivering indirect news or conclusions Stop periodically to ask for reactions and questions

17 Three Skills for Active Listening Inquire to learn – Open ended questions – “Help me understand better…” – Ask for more data – “Say more about…” Avoid leading questions that are really disguised statements Inquiry Paraphrasing Acknowledge -ment Check your understanding – “What I hear you saying is…” – “Just to make sure I’m follow, is what you’re saying…” Source: Stone et. al. Take time to acknowledge the other person’s feelings, even if they are not explicitly introduced into the conversation – “This is likely frustrating / difficult to hear” – “It sounds like you are really upset by this” Acknowledge before jumping to problem solving

18 Two-Way Conversation Checklist Create a mutual agenda  Explain your intentions and purposes  Ask for theirs Sharing Your View Explain your view  Conclusions  Reasoning  Examples Ask the other person  How are they reacting to your view?  What is their view, independent of your view? Understanding Their View Listen for understanding  Ask for examples  Paraphrase and ask to check for understanding  If reasoning or date is unclear, ask Deepen your understanding and others’ understanding if you see things differently  Explain your view and give examples  Ask what you might be missing When beginning the conversation… When exchanging your perspectives… When finishing your conversation… State any lingering concerns you may have Agree on concrete next steps you each can take Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.

19 Two Column Exercise (1 of 2) What We ThoughtWhat We Said M: Phew, I’m glad this letter finally got out. There’s been a lot of pressure from and this is a great offer. Melissa: Thanks for making time to talk with me. We were very excited to get the offer letter to you and Josh is looking forward to working with you. I understand you have some questions about the details of the letter and we may have some room to negotiate the terms of the offer since this wasn’t the final offer letter. I know that John’s offer deadline is in a few days, so I want to help address your concerns. C: How can the University of Michigan think I would go there without some significant incentive? Cathy: I got the letter and I can’t believe that this is what was offered to me. I am a graduate of a top tier Ph.D. program and am doing a post-doc at Lawrence Berkeley Labs. I got the letter from Josh and can’t even consider it. How did this happen? How is it that I am being offered this? M: I am shocked! I thought this met her needs. I guess I’ll talk about the process… Melissa: Well, after your interview, you and I talked about the faculty members you met with and I also asked for their input. Together we landed on Josh as the best fit for your interests and it went from there. C: My advisors have told me this is a dead end job. Cathy: I don’t even know what to say. This is just so beneath what I expected. I’m furious. M: I wish I understood the issue… Melissa: Your reaction is somewhat surprising to me. I thought this offer met the criteria for a position that we’d talked about a few weeks ago. C: What is she not getting? The title was critical! Cathy: This is a Research Investigator position. How does that meet what I told you I wanted? M: I’m going over and over this in my mind and can’t figure it out…but I don’t have my notes Melissa: Well, you told me that you wanted a position on the Research Scientist track. The Research Investigator position is the first step in that track. Do you remember the document we discussed about the research track options and positions in the College of Engineering and the requirements for the each position?

20 Two Column Exercise (2 of 2) What We ThoughtWhat We Said C: How man y times do I have to tell her the same thing? Cathy: This offer is for nothing but a glorified post-doc. With my credentials and publications, you should have offered me an Assistant Research Scientist position. M: Okay, here is my chance to explain the process. Does she think she’s somehow exempt from the same criteria the department uses to review all candidates for faculty positions? C: I had no idea the chair couldn’t just offer me what I wanted Melissa: Josh determined the right position to offer you based on input from the chair of his department. Your appointment will have to go through an approval process both within the department (including a faculty vote) and then at the College level. The department has its own criteria for positions and the chair evaluated your level of experience including publications, research independence, talks – the whole thing. He believes that the department will approve a Research Investigator appointment and that this is appropriate for someone with one year of post-doc experience. We also have time-in-rank limits (3 years for Assistant Research Scientists) and so he’s also thinking about how much time you will need to be ready to be promoted to the next level, especially when you are making a transition in your research focus. C: I need to get input more input from people I trust about the career implications of this job Cathy: I didn’t understand this at all, that anyone would be involved in reviewing and voting on my position. Why didn’t you tell me? I just can’t accept this Research Investigator job. I need to go think about this and get some more information. M: All I can do is get more information from the department Melissa: Well, why don’t I go back to Josh and to the chair to get some more information about Research Investigator and Assistant Research Scientist requirements? C: I need to talk with my husband. Why doesn’t he just take the position with the more prestigious school? Cathy: Fine. Thank you for your help. I’ll be back in touch.

21 Two Column Exercise TimeDirections 5 minutesDivide into pairs 15 minutesWrite about a recent difficult conversation using the two column template. 20 minutesShare your conversation with your partner and discuss what you could have done differently 5 minutesDebrief key lessons learned as a large group

22 Types of Difficult Conversations in the Dual Career Context Delivering bad news – Partner did not get a job – Partner will not be considered by a unit or company – Hiring unit has negative feedback to share about the partner Debunking assumptions Identifying problematic dynamics or behavior in the job search process Asking for contribution or compromise that is undesirable

23 Back Up Slides

24 Learning Pathways ContextFramingActionsResults React Reframe When having a conversation, consider: The constraints, resources and factors that create context – what influences the conversation The way you are framing the conversation – what you are thinking at each of the levels of the conversation (what happened / should happen, feelings, identity) The way you are acting – what you say and do The results you get – whether or not you reach the desired outcome Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.

25 One Way vs. Two Way Feedback Framing Someone is to blame (you or me) for an unwanted outcome Giving negative feedback can be upsetting and that is bad I have to be certain of the truth before I give feedback My options are to deliver the truth or withdraw Actions Impose my purposes on the other or assume our purposes are similar State my view, but not how I arrived at it or make disclaimers to soften the blow Do not ask the other their views or instead, ask leading questions Both may have contributed to a negative outcome in ways we cannot see Negative feedback can be upsetting and that’s okay, as long as we both remain open to learning It’s okay to have a strong point of view My task is to develop a shared understanding of what happened and where to go from here Check my purposes with the other and ask about their purposes Explain my view, how I arrived at it with conclusions, reasoning and examples Ask the other for their reaction to my view and for their view Ask what I contributed to the situation Ask how I can help and suggest what the other might do differently Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.

26 Blind Spots What I Can See What I am up against What I am trying to do How you do what you do What effect you have on me What I Cannot See How I do what I do What effect I have on you What you’re up against What you’re trying to do Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.


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