Presentation on theme: "Difficult Work, Difficult Conversations"— Presentation transcript:
1Difficult Work, Difficult Conversations Based on work by the Harvard Negotiation Project and by David Armstrong
2The basics of working together as a Board The taskdo we have any sense of shared purpose -and can we articulate it ?What's are the practical things we can/need to do together ?can we agree :what to dohow to do it ?The relationshipdo we like (or at least respect) each other ?do we have sufficiently similar assumptions/culture?can we keep the relationship good when we don’t agree?
3Group working needs to be based on common interest.. OurinterestsYourInterests… but not identical interests - Non-executives and Executives have very different roles.The critical thing is to determine the overlap and how to work on it together.
4Difficult work, difficult conversations In any working group, whether a team or a Board, there will be some conversations which feel much more difficult than others, even when the basics of common purpose and good relationships are in place.These are the conversations we try to avoid, or, at best, the ones we go and have in private, in corridors or pubsThere are three types of conversation that we typically find hard to deal with in groups at work:the contested conversation (there are strongly held opposing views about a matter of principle or planned future action)the upset conversation (one party or group has done something - or continually does something - which has angered or saddened the other)the bargaining conversation (one party or group wants something that the other is reluctant to give).
5When things get difficult, we often focus on the wrong things I look at what is DIFFERENT between us - what is exclusively yours or mineI don’t take time to define the interests we have in common (and it takes time)I make assumptions about how you see the world - and assume it’s the same way as me!Or, if you are not like me, I stereotype you into a corner.So how can we avoid getting stuck in our difficult conversations ?The crucial thing is to learn to shift your perceptual position
6Perceptual positionsPosition 3‘Observer’s position’What is happening inour relationship at thismoment ?Position 1‘My position’What do I want/needfrom this situation ?The more positions we can view a conversation from, the more likely we are to spot stuck patternsPosition 2‘Your position’What do you want/need from thissituation ?6
7Appendix A The ‘contested’ conversation For when opinions have become polarised around a critical issue
8Dilemmas are the root of all contested conversations Leaders continually face dilemmas in the course of leading their organisation:should our main focus be quality or cost-cutting ?should we try to expand our own services or link with others ?should we give more freedom and authority to our staff or do we need to control them more tightly ?In a group or Board, these dilemmas often polarise, with one group holding one position and another holding the opposite poleThis polarisation can be between obvious grouping (e.g. Execs vs. Non-execs) or be much more subtlePeople then get into ‘who is right, who is wrong’ rather than understanding itis all a matter of taking POSITIONS
9The effect of an unrecognised polarity Once a polarisation has formed, it can feel more like ‘conflict’ - i.e. we think that the stuckness is due to personalities rather than differing points of view :‘they’ are wrong-headed, misguided, unethical, etc etc‘they’ need educating, more data, more persuasion, more bribeseveryone else (of course) thinks like me !Rather than taking the time to examine the contest in sufficient detail, we just refer to it obliquely over and over again every time we meet (which causes upset) :‘well, of course, the Execs would back that idea, they are concerned about their jobs’‘well, of course, the Non-Execs would say that, they are trying to keep in with the SHA’.
10Working through the contest (1) First, work together define your polarity, with both ends described in positive, specific language - what is the value that defines each end of the dilemma :Excellence in personalised careProviding superb value for money to the tax payerrather than :High qualityCost cutting
11Working through the contest (2) Then, get together as a whole group, and ask people to place themselves on the spectrumExcellence in personalised careProviding superb value for money to the tax payerHave each person describe, in detail, what makes them take that position and what it means to them.
12Working through the contest (3) Thirdly, ask if anyone wants to change their position - most people will do so if they have listened carefully enough to others’ positionsExcellence in personalised careProviding superb value for money to the tax payerSome people will notice that they want to hold both ends of the dilemma and start to speculate how that might be done.
13Working through the contest (4) If the conversation has been effective, a new way of looking at the dilemma will show up - usually a more specific issue which can be investigated using data rather than beliefs :Provide one-to-one case workersHave an efficient, multi-provider processOr people will realise that they have been arguing over a false polarity, both ‘ends’ are valid and some choices need to be made on a case-by-case basis.
14Working through the contest (5) At the very least, people will have :new datanew understanding of each other’s perspectivespossibly, some surprises about who sits where (especially for the more silent types)realisation that not everyone thinks in the same way that they do…… all of which will strengthen the overall sense of :positive relationshipsmutual respectthe useful diversity of view in the group
15Appendix B The ‘upset’ conversation For when something has gone wrong between you
16Three chapters to the conversation The ‘What Happened’ ConversationStop arguing about who is right : Explore each other’s storiesDon’t assume they meant what you think : Disentangle intent from impactAbandon Blame : Map the contribution systemThe Feelings ConversationHave your feelings (or they will have you)The Identity ConversationGround your Identity : Ask yourself what is at stake
17The ‘What Happened’ Conversation What’s my story ? Be as factual as possible, avoid interpretationWhat’s your story ? Be interested, interview for detail, contain any trigger momentsWhat did I intend ? What was your impact on me ?What did you intend ? What was my impact on you ?What did I contribute to the situation going wrong ?What do you think you contributed ?
18The Feelings Conversation What are the feelings that underlie my attributions and judgements about you in relation to this situation?Name all the feelings the situation has triggered in you - positive and negative - don’t vent, describeUnexpressed feelingsleak or burst into the conversationmake it difficult to listentake a toll on self esteem and on our relationshipsListen to and fully acknowledge their feelings - even those that seem unreasonable to you ! Allow them space to think/speak, contain your reactions
19The Identity Conversation How does what happened threaten my identity ?Usually the most difficult to get clear onDifficult conversations threaten our identity (usually one of : am I competent, a good person, worthy of love ?)When our identities are threatened, we can fall into denial and/or exaggerationIt takes practice to regain your balance within the conversation - the more difficult conversations you have, the better you will get !
20Steps to a positive conversation Prepare by exploring the three conversationsDecide on your purpose in raising the conversation - is it legitimate or are you just trying to be ‘right’ ?Frame the conversationstate your purposedescribe the problem as the difference between your storiesinvite them to join you in sorting this outExplore their story and yours - from the three anglesGo on together :invent options that meet both sides concernsset standards from now ontalk about how to keep communication open
21Appendix C The ‘bargaining’ conversation For when they won’t do something you want them to
225 principles of negotiation Separate thePERSON fromthe problemFocus onINTERESTSnot positionsKnow yourBATNAInvent OPTIONSfor mutual gainInsist onobjectiveCRITERIA
23The first rule of negotiation : Focus on the problem not the people IT !If the problem IS therelationship, tacklethat separately (usingthe ‘upset’ technology)
24Focus on interests not positions Why ?Positions get entrenched (and often personal)Interests can be compatible even when positions seem opposedAsking about interests makes the other party feel listened toHow ?Ask what they really want to get out of thisTell them your needs - make them come aliveRecognise interests are often pretty simple (security, belonging, sense of control etc)Ask ‘How can we BOTH get our interests met ?’
25Objective criteria for starting the negotiation Fair standardsThere are a number of ways of deciding what is ‘fair’precedentbest valuesplit the differencewhat a court would decidereciprocityFair processesIf the process feels fair, the other party is much more likely to engage with ithow do others do this ?who needs a say - ?vote, ?consensuslet a third party decidetake it in turns
26Invent NEW options - together If you are getting stuck, you need some new options - and it’s best to create them togetherNew options do not include ‘the position you came in with but reworded’ !Be creative - base possibilities on interests not positionsDon’t assume one party has to lose - there could be a win-win-winMake it easy for them to chooseRemember, it’s up to you to help them save face
27Know your BATNA The BATNA Always know your best alternative to a negotiated solution - i.e. what will you do if you can’t reach agreementThis is especially important if the person is more powerful than youExamples :do it alone or with someone else,remove yourself from this relationship,appeal to a higher authority
28What if they use dirty tactics ? 3 typesstonewall (flat ‘no’ with no alternative, delay tactics, escalating demands)attack (personal attack, threats, good guy/bad guy)manipulation (phoney facts, ambiguous authority, partial disclosure)Pause, don’t reactName the game - use humour if possible, be firm if notTry to go focus back on the problemUse your BATNA
29Resources Armstrong, D. Taking Positions in the Organisation Heen, S., Patton, B. & Stone, D. (2000) Difficult Conversations. Penguin.Fisher, R., Patton, B. & Ury, W. (1991) Getting to Yes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Ury, W. (1991) Getting past No. Bantam.