Conversations that Matter! | Critical Conversations

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Why leaders need to be skillful in the art of having critical conversations?

Life brings triggers to re-define moments that lead to shift in behaviors and attitudes. Most of these moments are brought forward through critical conversations that add to the “aha's” - some pleasant and some as steps to move forward with greater courage.

Every leader holds the responsibility and accountability to create conditions that foster a positive learning environment. Having critical conversations - skillfully is one of the greatest tools to support teams and drive greater results.

When problems arise and leaders investigate the underlying issues, to their surprise, they find that the right conversations either never took place or weren’t effective to produce the right outcomes.

3 Key Techniques for Having Critical Conversations

1. Right people in the right space

Have the right and most relevant people, whether the conversation is decided to be in a group setting or one-on-one. Choose the most productive and supportive format of physical space where there is a minimal level of distraction. Consider the level of informality required to have a powerful conversation where everyone is comfortable sharing.

2. Clear purpose and credibility

Ensure that there is a high level of credibility and trust between the leader (you) and others. Having a clear purpose of the conversation will also contribute to your and your conversation’s credibility. Have 1-2 clear outcomes, well articulated to others with sufficient support.

3. Having authentic and human conversations

Being emotionally engaged in a critical conversation is as important as steeping your tea into boiling water long enough to have the right color, aroma, and taste. Being ready to have more discoveries, different perspectives, and welcoming voices that matter are significant to make the conversations impactful. Leaders must be able to show authentic concern and willingness to support and not put down others during such conversations. This does not mean agreeing to everything. It means being able to make right kind of adjustments to the goals and outcomes that are realistic and equitable to get the most productive and sustainable results possible.


Have a coaching mindset to support your team members. Create a list of questions that you might ask during the conversation and how might you navigate further.
  • Don’t be emotionally stuck and keep the facts separate from the stories.
  • Be respectful and keep your assumptions, biases, and barriers in check.
  • Be sure to provide the context to everyone involved. Reiterate, if necessary.
  • Use simple and clear language without any jargons to avoid ambiguity.
  • Practice the conversation ahead of time, if you must.
  • Have a clear and mutually agreed action plan at the end.


One of the very effective and useful tool-guides that is available today is Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler. If you haven't had a chance to pick up this comprehensive and practical tool-guide then here is a chance to help yourself and help your team to drive the results- that matter.