Joining the Ranks of the Effective

All this can change. We ve trained 200,000 people, from Nairobi to New Jersey, and they ve changed. They ve learned the same skills that Melissa and the other opinion leaders we studied used to deal with some of the most challenging confrontations imaginable. You can learn the same skills. And if you do, you ll be able to step out of the shadows and deal with disappointments. Best of all, you ll learn to avoid slipping from awkward silence into embarrassing violence. In fact, when you learn to master crucial confrontations , you ll never have to give in to your fears and walk away from a problem again. That s the good news.

Now for the bad news. If you can t step up to and master crucial confrontations, nothing will get better. Think about it. Has anyone ever solved performance problems by changing the performance review system, or any system for that matter? Not anyone we ve met. For example, you ve changed your policies, written up new guidelines, and taught classes on eliminating sexual harassment . Will interpersonal insensitivities disappear?

When problems arise, in the worst companies people will withdraw into silence. In your average company, people will say something, but only to the authorities. In the best companies, people will hold a crucial confrontation, face-to-face and in-the-moment. And they ll hold it well. This, of course, takes skill.

Let s be clear on this point: It will be a skill set, not a policy, that will enable people to solve their pressing problems. This applies to quality violations, safety infractions, cost-cutting mistakes, medical errors, recalcitrant teenagers, and withdrawn loved ones. Don t count on new ground rules, or new systems, or new policies to propel the changes you want. Not by themselves , at least: You have to combine them with a skill set.

For instance, a well-known manufacturing company recently invested tens of millions of dollars in first studying and then copying a competitor s revolutionary production system. (If you can t beat them, join them.) Naturally, for the changes to work, the employees had to use the new methods and then step up to coworkers who failed to do the same thing. Two years into the change effort executives reverted to the old system because the new way wasn t working. It wasn t working not because it wasn t better ”it was far better ”but because in the executives own words, People didn t know how to confront individuals who failed to get with the program.

Policies, systems, programs ”any method for encouraging change ”will never function fully until people know how to talk to one another about deviations and disappointments. Institutional survival calls for constant change. Change calls for new expectations, and like it or not, new expectations eventually will be violated. If you can t confront those who fail to live up to the new promises, no memo, no policy, and no system will ever make up for the deficiency.

Back to the good news. The skills for mastering crucial confrontations can be learned. With the right kind of help, people can and do learn crucial confrontation skills all the time.

Self Assessment

Before you go too much farther, here s an assessment that can help you understand your typical level of performance when facing a crucial confrontation. Scoring instructions follow.




1. Rather than get into an argument, I tend to put off certain discussions longer than I should.

2. When others don t deliver on a promise, there are times when I judge them more quickly than I should.

3. Sometimes I bring up problems in a way that makes others defensive.

4. There are people I routinely deal with who, to be honest, just can t be motivated.

5. When someone can t do something, I tend to jump in with my advice when all they really want is a chance to talk about their ideas.

6. When talking to others about problems, sometimes I get sidetracked and miss the original problem.

7. Sometimes I work through a problem, but forget to clarify who is supposed to do what by when.


Add up the number of Yes boxes you checked. Here s what your total score means:

6 “7 Don t put this book down!

4 “5 You could use some help but at least you re honest

2 “3 You re capable and likely to be succeeding

0 “1 You could teach us all a thing or two

A full version of this survey is found in Appendix A. You can also go to, where you ll also find a free self-scoring version of this survey with accompanying video clips that illustrate both bad and good methods for handling crucial confrontations.

Crucial Confrontations. Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior
Crucial Confrontations
ISBN: 0071446524
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 115 © 2008-2017.
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