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0:00:11 Tiffany Hogan: Welcome to See Hear Speak Podcast Episode 8. In this episode I talk with Kelly Farquharson and Julie Wolter about how to have crucial conversations. Have you ever avoided talking to someone because you were afraid they may not handle it well? Have you felt that heat creeping up your neck when someone says something you don’t agree with? We talk about when a conversation is considered crucial, how to handle these conversations, and what makes them so crucial to being an effective leader for change.
This conversation is part of a series on leading literacy change that I have created for a course that I teach online at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston.
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0:01:27 Tiffany Hogan: Okay, welcome to SeeHearSpeak podcast. I have Kelly Farquharson and Julie Wolter here on this episode to talk about crucial conversations. Kelly I'll have you start by introducing yourself?
0:01:38 Kelly Farquharson: Great, well thanks for having me back, I'm excited to be here again, chatting with you guys. My name's Kelly Farquharson and I'm an associate professor at Florida State University in the School of Communication Science, and Disorders. And my research focuses on how children with speech and language impairments achieve classroom success.
0:01:57 Kelly Farquharson: I'm here today to talk a little bit about "crucial conversations" and I'm really excited to talk about this with both you, Tiffany and you, Julie. Because really, the main reason that I am a researcher and certainly the researcher that I am today is because of both of you.
0:02:12 Kelly Farquharson: And so this really started for me through the ASHA Leadership Development Program, which is where I met Julie for the first time, and was inspired to pursue a research degree which I completed with Tiffany in Nebraska, and through that training program, we learned a little bit about what we call in that program courageous conversations. And so that really got me thinking about this idea of collaboration and how we need to really work on that specific skill of becoming open and honest and vulnerable with our leadership abilities and with the people that we may be leading. And then I learned about the "Crucial Conversations" book through Julie, and that became an active part of my doctoral training with Tiffany in her lab in Nebraska. And so, this is really in many ways coming full circle for me so I'm excited to be here.
0:03:01 Tiffany Hogan: And you can't see it, but Julie and I are just smiling ear to ear. So, thanks.
0:03:07 Julie Wolter: Yes. Well thank you, Kelly, that's lovely introduction, and yes I am beaming. It is so wonderful to be here and thank you, Tiffany for this invite. So I'm Julie Wolter. I currently serve as chair for the School of Speech Language Hearing and Occupational Sciences at University of Montana, where I met originally Tiffany. We graduated with our PhDs at the same time, different schools in Kansas. And Tiffany and I... I laugh because we were the only two PhD students that would talk to each other across the aisle of different Kansas schools. But it's been wonderful to go through my career alongside Tiffany and then meeting Kelly along the way.
0:04:00 Julie Wolter: And I call myself her fairy god mentor, and I own that role very much. But in terms of leadership, I think it has been a journey and one of the pieces... So I do do research in language and literacy right alongside with Tiffany. We currently have our grant, focusing on that longitudinal piece of screening and providing and thinking about best treatments. But over the course of my career, I've really recognized that there really is this challenge in how to implement and see what we know to be current best practices in schools in practice itself.
0:04:44 Julie Wolter: And it's been a journey to think about and be curious about why is that... Why isn't, the science that we know to be so good, why is it being implemented? And I think that's part of our roles as leaders. I also, in my role as a department or a school chair, who is focused on curriculum for training our future leaders in our profession I've also thought a lot about how do we think about this from a curricular perspective? And I'm thrilled that Tiffany you've integrated this into your program as well as Kelly.
0:05:21 Julie Wolter: These are really important pieces that we as... And I would say, 'cause we're mostly and many times female in this profession, as well. How do we think about our roles and how we have these again, crucial conversations? I'm gonna say one more thing is that, one thing that Kelly and I learned in this, 11 years ago, leadership program through the American Speech Hearing Association, is that there was a term that we always talked about, to surround yourself with nutritious people.
0:05:55 Julie Wolter: And that's another theme that has gone through my life. So again, I'm with the most nutritious people right here having this conversation. And I am excited to talk more about how you might develop a team that's going to be really helpful in this journey.
0:06:09 Tiffany Hogan: Oh, thank you so much, I really appreciate it. I will say that, my interest in crucial conversations came from having to be a reluctant manager. So, when I obtained my PhD I thought I would be a scientist. And I've been fortunate enough to have funding from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Education, and I had that funding fairly early in my career. So I graduated in 2006, and by 2010, just four years out, I had several grants and I had about 50 to 70 people in my lab and several that were full-time and I felt very overwhelmed with the task of Leading this group.
0:06:46 Tiffany Hogan: And I also felt very overwhelmed with how to communicate expectations and how to just effectively lead this team of diverse individuals. And so that got me thinking about better ways to have conversations and wanting to start reading leadership books. And so I read several books and one of them was this one recommended by Julie and Kelly and then I also had the team read it at that time, I had six, it was including doc students, post-docs, full-time project managers with a variety of experiences, read "Crucial Conversations" and we had a discussion about what it meant and in terms of our leadership. I also read "Death by Meetings" which kinda felt like that case also as a leader, but that's not the topic of today's podcast.
0:07:33 Tiffany Hogan: So, we'll focus on crucial conversations. So Kelly, what makes the conversation crucial? Isn't every conversation crucial what are the characteristics of a crucial conversation?
0:07:46 Kelly Farquharson: Yeah. Yeah, I think that's a really good thing to clarify because in many settings and many cases, our conversations are crucial and across the individuals that we're talking with, in the settings that we're in. I think one of the biggest maybe differences is this three tenant idea of a crucial conversation. And it's often depicted using a triangle, where not unlike evidence-based practice, we think about the three different components that might contribute to a crucial conversation. So we're thinking about a conversation in which opinions might vary, and I think that's one big piece there is that you might be having this conversation with someone who thinks quite differently than you.
0:08:30 Kelly Farquharson: Emotions run strong, and the stakes are high. And so when I think about how this might apply to the average clinician or the average person working with the kids that we all care about so much in a school, it is the case a lot of times, that almost every conversation is a crucial conversation. We're talking with parents who are very emotionally invested in the success of their children and education providers who are certainly also emotionally invested. But perhaps from a different perspective. And in that case, opinions about the best choice for that child might vary. And then certainly, without question, the stakes are high there, because we're thinking about the future of a child whose outcomes are really in our hands.
0:09:18 Kelly Farquharson: And so I think, that's one of the biggest differences of a crucial conversation that I think applies directly to clinical practice, is thinking about how we can approach this maybe tumultuous possible situation in a way that really supports everybody involved and acknowledges everybody at the table.
0:09:40 Tiffany Hogan: I think one thing about crucial conversations to me when I think about what is a crucial conversation, it's often ones that I'm having in my head already. So you start just playing out those conversations thinking, "Oh this is how it's gonna go, this is how it's gonna go" and it becomes very weighty. And for me, I tend to avoid those conversations, which is the opposite of what you need to do. And when I was reading the book "Crucial Conversations" there's also one called "Crucial Confrontations". And I thought it was really interesting that when they study for instance... What was the example? Like a plane crash, was an example that they gave in "Crucial Confrontations".
0:10:15 Tiffany Hogan: And when they started to investigate there were many people that were concerned about what was going on, but no one spoke up, no one felt comfortable to actually speak up. And that's related to hierarchy, emotions, lots of different aspects go into it, but they make this very clear example that these conversations are so critical because they often times involved something very high stakes. As you mentioned Kelly. And in our field, like a child outcome or if you're running a lab, then you're talking about findings, that will impact science and that you need to run the best project you can and they're very weighty. And I appreciate that you gave some nice examples when you spoke to my class about crucial conversations. Can you give us some of those?
0:11:01 Kelly Farquharson: Yeah, well, and I think some of this like I mentioned is related to my own clinical experience, although now I've had the opportunity to apply these practices in my own work as a scientist in my lab, but also in the classes that I teach at Florida State and prior to Florida State at Emerson College. So I think as a clinician I had some experiences... I was really interested in inclusive practices, and working in the classroom with teachers, and the kids who were on my case load and that always wasn't necessarily always well received. And there was a variety of reasons for that, and that kind of created some obstacles for me as a clinician in implementing what I knew to be best practices.
0:11:45 Kelly Farquharson: And so that has now also thinking about this full circle component, that has come full circle for me because a lot of my research now is focusing on how we can help clinicians advocate for best practices, and particularly in school-based settings but of course hopefully applicable across settings. So one example that I've shared is showing up at a fifth grade classroom bright and perky and ready to be in the classroom with the kids on my caseload who had language impairments and needed some extra support in language processing and vocabulary and following directions, and the teacher kind of greeted me at the door and then very quickly suggested that I leave and closed the door behind me.
0:12:30 Kelly Farquharson: And so that created a situation for me that I started... You mentioned talking about having the conversation in your head. I started a conversation in my head and that now I can fully share that I never did have the conversation with that teacher that needed to be had, but I certainly had a conversation in my head about it. What I ended up finding out later was some of the pressures that this teacher was feeling about getting her class up to speed on math skills for the upcoming state assessment had caused her a lot of stress. And created a situation in which I told myself a story about not being respected, not being appreciated that she thinks I'm dumb, that she thinks I don't belong, that she thinks my services aren't helpful.
0:13:15 Kelly Farquharson: I told myself this story. None of those things were true. But that was the story I told myself because of this kind of tricky situation that I was in. So I'm glad to now have the skills and I regret not having them at the time. But you do the best you can with what you have at the time. I know now that I think a crucial conversation would have really been helpful for me to be able to approach that situation, with that teacher share my perspective of what happened, which to be honest, she is very likely to be aware of, whatsoever. And then to move forward in a way, that ultimately is getting us both to the same end goal which is to help the kids in that classroom. Clearly, she had the exact same end goal.
0:13:55 Kelly Farquharson: Right? We were just approaching it very differently and weren't at a place where we could have that crucial conversation. And so I think that's one example that kind of continues to fuel my thoughts when I think about how we can help clinicians really make the best of those situations and to hopefully not get into a stalemate where you kinda get stuck and not being able to move forward in a relationship with a collaborator in whatever capacity that is. Because you've kind of told yourself a story about what they're thinking or what they know when the reality is you just don't know that.
0:14:29 Julie Wolter: Kelly would you also say that with that your, your decision to not confront that individual at the time that you felt it was an all-or-none situation, that you felt like if you were to say something you would lose that relationship totally if for example there was a relationship? I don't know about this teacher, but in general, sometimes we're afraid to have that crucial conversation because we think that the only outcome could be that you win it or you lose the friendship, or the relationship. And that there's no third alternative of that, you can still continue to have that relationship and still solve the issue.
0:15:20 Julie Wolter: So, even to reframe it as you did to think about, "How could I have found some mutual goal? In this case, that we both wanted the best for the kids". And then to be able to have a conversation around that as opposed to confronting in a way that would then create a defensive situation where you felt like you even had to win or lose the relationship.
0:15:43 Tiffany Hogan: I think that makes a lot of sense, Julie, and it really highlights why crucial conversations are difficult. So some of the reasons they list in, the book "Crucial Conversations" is they're often spontaneous, so you feel unprepared. They have emotional reactions. That are difficult to control, so a lot of times, I know it's gonna be a crucial conversations because I feel emotions inside of me or I see the other person exhibiting emotion. And as I mentioned in the example of the plane crash oftentimes there's superiority or hierarchy involved. So...
0:16:12 Kelly Farquharson: Yeah.
0:16:13 Tiffany Hogan: It may be a superior you have to talk to or maybe you're the leader and you don't want to make someone feel uncomfortable, and you want to encourage them still, but you still need to talk about something difficult. I think often times we're...
0:16:26 Tiffany Hogan: Oh, go ahead.
0:16:27 Kelly Farquharson: Sorry. I was just gonna say in this particular situation... I totally agree Julie, yes, I think that's absolutely part of what happened. I didn't have the skill set to really address it, but also related to the specific point, you just raised Tiffany, this idea about superiority. It was a factor. I was a new... I was a new faculty member in that elementary school. And I was still kind of learning the ropes, just as a clinician in general, but I was certainly learning the ropes of that school in that community that I was not... I was new to that community as well.
0:16:55 Kelly Farquharson: And that teacher had worked in that school for probably 25 years, and I was about 25 years old at the time. And so there was definitely a superiority piece there that I felt that not only could I... I didn't have the skills to approach that situation, but I also was afraid of what the fall out, might be.
0:17:13 Julie Wolter: Yeah.
0:17:14 Kelly Farquharson: And it did feel like all or nothing. Yeah.
0:17:17 Tiffany Hogan: I think that's really critical. I think the other thing that we've been conditioned oftentimes that we'd rather do anything to make a scene. So it seems like it's gonna make a scene, it's gonna cause a problem. As you said Julie, it could make or break the relationship that we've taught, we're taught to just let that person have their perspective, we have our perspective and just to avoid conflict at all costs, and that's what this feels like. And also, I think because of that avoidance sometimes there's just too much time that passes. So even in your example Kelly, maybe a summer vacation occurs you... It's still eating you all the summer but then when you go back, you kind of think "Oh now it's just already passed, it's not worth it" to have this conversation. Even though it may come up again in a different form, that same kind of behavior, it still is this idea that you are having that conversation in your head.
0:18:05 Tiffany Hogan: And I do remember one great example from the book is that we have... I guess I'll step back and say, "Why would there be a whole book on crucial conversations?" Well, it's because not only just... We're not in situations where maybe a plane will crash, but we are in situations where we can start changing our own behavior, and that will change the outcome of the interaction. So in this example in the book, they talked about, "You may have a colleague who you feel is leaving you out of activities." So you're not being asked, let's say, to be on a certain project or what not. So then you may then start to act hostilely to that colleague meaning that you start to ignore them, you start to be cold.
0:18:46 Tiffany Hogan: That colleague then, who maybe originally, one didn't intend to leave you out, just didn't send an email to include you or maybe thought you were too busy at the time. That colleague then starts to think "Well, I don't know why this person is being rude to me, now. I guess this person doesn't wanna work with me." So then what happens is, out of something that's very innocent, that could have involved a quick conversation of" Hey, I felt left out, what was going on". That person could have said, "Oh I didn't mean to do that." And then you just saw it right there, you move forward or you have a shared understanding. Instead because the person felt left out, they start being cold, they start avoiding this person. What happens is the snowball effect where the person then is intentionally left out. And that's all because of misinterpreted perspectives.
0:19:31 Tiffany Hogan: And I, like Kelly that you have really thought through when you gave this talk to the class about seeing another person's perspective. And how critical that is to have a crucial conversation. And Julie, you've been, I know very interested in thinking about determining a person's perspective based on their strengths for instance. So Julie when we started our NIH project you had us take a quiz about trying to determine our strengths. Can you tell us about what that quiz was, what was the motivation and how you see that playing into having a crucial conversation?
0:20:08 Julie Wolter: Yes, I think one of the main tenants of crucial conversations, is that you can't change others, you can change yourself, you can change your behavior and how you respond to a situation. And those skills... And a big piece of that is having insight into your own self and also sometimes even having some insights into the skills of your team, those that you surround yourself with. I happen to be... I've been a department chair, I've been in different leadership positions where I have found that by thinking about who's on your team and the strengths that you have can really help to, again, give insight, perspective. But also can help and even building who is best to take on different types of activities and tasks to the be the best that we can be. Right?
0:21:10 Julie Wolter: And so, when we just kicked off our National Institutes of Health research as Tiffany and I were thinking about as we were building our team... And it is quite a little bit of a larger team than typical for an NIH project because it's multi-sites and not just in the United States. We even have a partner in London. And then you start to think about our postdoc fellows or PhD students. You get further and further away from... Well, I should say you have different dynamics and we were just talking about even the power dynamics of maybe not wanting to bring up a question because you think somebody might know more than you.
0:21:51 Julie Wolter: And so I thought it was a nice way how we wanted to move forward that we are a team, we are all rational authorities, we have a lot to contribute regardless of whether you've been out for 15 years, with your PhD or one year right? And I think that's certainly how we've lead our team Tiffany. But going forward, one way we've done this in one way that I have found helpful is to think about strengths. Now as you mentioned there's other ways to do this. I think there's Myers-Briggs tests out there. There's other different ways to think about it, but the reason I like the strength-based leadership approach, which is... There's a book out there called "Strengths Finder" by Tom Rath. And it's based on some of the work by Clifton. In terms of thinking about themes of strengths.
0:22:41 Julie Wolter: I like this idea that we know your themes of talent, and then you can then focus on that. It doesn't mean that you can't improve in other areas, and it doesn't mean that you don't have strengths in a lot of areas, but it's more about your inclination. What fills your cup? And where you naturally go? And so that book has... There's a code, you can take a quiz online but it comes up with your top five themes of talent and so within our... And then there's a book that goes with it that's "Strengths Leadership. And then... As a compliment, then you can look at the different domains of these set of strengths.
0:23:26 Julie Wolter: And so often what you find is, that when people have their... When they take this they'll have five top strengths and usually they will cluster in areas, main areas. And so there's the strength categories that strengths can be nested in one... In areas that focus mostly on relationship building. Focus that they cluster on influencing others. Maybe they cluster in strategic thinking or cluster in executing. And there I think there's 32 different themes of strengths that they cluster in these four main areas.
0:24:08 Julie Wolter: And usually you have one or two areas that you are more advanced in. And so we did this exercise across our lab. I think there were nine of us that day. I'm trying to think, Tiffany, when we first started out that exercise and it was really interesting because we saw across the group that we were all focused on relationship building. I thought that was an interesting outcome. And it helped us to think about how we wanted to target thinking about, talking about if there were differences. Because I do think that fear of losing a relationship if we were to speak up, might be a big factor. If you think about those crucial conversations.
0:24:49 Julie Wolter: So we had some really honest and frank discussions about that. I myself, I'm in the executing category meeting, I like to get things done, I like my lists, I like to be efficient. But at the same time, then I need to be careful as a leader, that I don't take up too much space, if you will. And that, I leave room for other people who want to be more strategic in their thinking, to have more discussions to think more about the culture of the group for example. And so that's a little bit of a perspective that I've had. And then, by the way, mostly typically scientists are not in the big influencing category.
0:25:35 Julie Wolter: So if you find those individuals who are your PR people on your team. That's by the way, not me, but I work at this skill. I need to do that. Where I live on a campus, where I have to influence, perhaps my president, or my provost to get resources and advocate for my faculty. I have to work at this skill, but I also know that I have people on my team that are really talented at this skill, and I can lean on. So that's one way to think about this but it gives a little perspective about yourself and how to build a team, where different people come to the table with their strengths to make a whole team even stronger.
0:26:13 Tiffany Hogan: I remember one thing I learned from that exercise was even some verbiage that I can use as a leader to describe myself to others. So it's not just that you're learning about other people, but doing these things can also in provide language for you. So for instance, my top strength was positivity. When you read about it, it was... People think maybe you're not seeing all sides to the issue that you're just wearing rose-colored glasses or what not. And so it gave me some verbiage to be able to describe based on the book's description, that I can let people know I choose to see the positive side, but I do see all sides. I'm not in denial about it I see it I just chose to look at positive. And it also kind of highlighted, I think for people working with you, what are some of the perspectives that you take?
0:27:02 Tiffany Hogan: I will say that. I love, love, love these kinds of assessments, and tests, and I think they're really fun and maybe it's the scientist in me, I like to classify everyone, categorize and count. But I will say I've had many discussions of people and especially my friends in social psychology that highlight that many of these can be unreliable, and that to keep in mind that this is one tool to see someone's perspective. And social psychologists often think about this idea of context. So you can take the test in one context, let's say work, but you might be very different in your strengths if you take it at home, for instance, or in a different group of people. But I still having said that, think that these are really helpful in determining that, first off, it really highlights if you didn't already know that everyone has a different perspective, but that is hard to understand sometimes.
0:27:52 Tiffany Hogan: Especially if you're looking at the same maybe data set or you're approaching the same problem that everyone has different perspectives. As long as we don't pigeon-hole people into a certain perspective, it is helpful to see all of these different components. And I think that this one is a particular one, but there's so many out there, you mentioned the Myers-Briggs. And Kelly, you talked specifically about what I thought was very cool for a class activity you talked about the compass points which is self-selected, you... Not taking a quiz, but you just look at some characteristics. Can you tell us about the compass points and how that's been useful for you?
0:28:26 Kelly Farquharson: Yeah, I love this activity, and it's one I learned about when I was faculty at Emerson College. Their center for innovation and teaching and learning had kind of a round-table activity, where those of us who are interested in getting more information about how to improve our own teaching went to this workshop and we learned about the compass points. And the idea is really to understand the dynamics of behavior particularly during team-based work. And so, I've used this in some of my graduate level classes, and the feedback that I've gotten from graduate students is really interesting in that they have found a combination of... Kind of their outcomes were like, "Oh my gosh, I work with you, so well, because we're exactly the same." Or "I work so well with you, because we're on opposite side of this compass, and we compliment one another."
0:29:17 Kelly Farquharson: And so the idea is that there are four compass points north, south, east, and west. I won't go through the exact... I'll maybe give an example but I won't go through the details of each one, but you do listen to a list of characteristics within each of the four compass points and then you do self-select which one of these most resonates with you. I think, to a point that you already... You both already raised that, this is maybe not as reliable as other types of metrics. And it's certainly not foolproof or meant to represent the only way that you can possibly operate. But I think it is helpful in understanding your own strengths within a group. But then helping to understand Julie said how other people will bring strength to your group as well. And I think like Julie... So, considering the compass points I identify as a north.
0:30:11 Kelly Farquharson: And the characteristics in that category are acting, product-oriented and want to get it done and get it done now. And so, Julie I think about getting things done, crossing things off my list, moving efficiently through a system. Knowing that it's a possibility that I may leave someone feeling like they weren't heard because I just wanna move through it as opposed to really letting someone else who maybe an east, who has big ideas I want to consider all the options. I might not let that person share their... All the possibilities that they want to consider before they feel like comfortable making a decision.
0:30:49 Kelly Farquharson: And so that has been really helpful for me, not just in understanding how I operate, as a leader, but also in making sure that I am taking into consideration the way that I'm perceived in the way that other people may need to operate in order to feel safe and successful in a particular situation. So I've really loved doing this with my graduate students because it's fascinating to see not only how they self-identify but... Before I share with them what my compass point is I ask them. And very few of them across the years have actually identified me as a north, and I think in part it's because of the way that I interact with them in a class, which is "Well, what do you think, what could it be? It could be this theory, it could be that theory."
0:31:33 Kelly Farquharson: Because in that particular context, I am thinking a little bit more big picture. As opposed to the students who've maybe worked on the thesis with me who know that I'm "Let's get this done, let's move forward, let's do this, here's the next thing." And so I think it also has a lot to do a lot of helpful tools for yourself when you start thinking about how other people perceive you.
0:31:53 Tiffany Hogan: Yeah, I'll say that I'm an east.
0:31:55 Kelly Farquharson: Yes.
0:31:56 Tiffany Hogan: So, an east is considering a big idea person. And I also wanna consider all options and I wanna discuss all possibilities before acting. Which I think can at times drive a north crazy because I want to just talk, talk, talk it out, talk it out, talk it out, it seems like maybe I'll never move forward. And I think that realizing that in myself and my preferred tendency to do that, I tend to surround myself with people who are more north case-in-point Kelly and Julie but are wanting to do at some point say, "Okay, we've talked about it enough, let's move forward and let's get going on this deadline."
0:32:35 Tiffany Hogan: Which is hard for me because I just wanna be in think land. I think about big ideas. I also have a... I'll say right now I have, I think, an unnatural affinity to the compass because when we first did this activity a few years ago I discovered that in the lab at that time our... The four leaders in the lab were all four points of the compass. So we started buying compass things. I have a compass in my office hanging on the wall. We gave each other compass gifts. I'm actually gonna see those gals who've moved on now to other positions they're coming in town this weekend. And we said, "Let's get the compass together". So I have a really strong affinity towards the compass, and because of that, I am gonna say a few of the points so that you can as you're listening to the podcast, maybe you can think what is your compass point?
0:33:28 Tiffany Hogan: So, Kelly mentioned that she and Julie north, which is acting product-oriented. And they wanna get it done and get it done now. And I will say like Kelly said, that this is just a preference that you might have. So if you think of a certain situation... So if I think about my work situation, I am clearly an east but if I think of a different situation like at home, I'm actually more of a north.
0:33:50 Tiffany Hogan: And that's because of the context of other people. And we have all of these characteristics inside of us, but it's kind of what we prefer, what we feel most comfortable with and what we prefer in a certain context. So, that's north for Julie and Kelly, and then I'm east which I said is considering and really thinking about big ideas, not really focusing on the details as much, but more the big picture, and wanting to consider all possibilities.
0:34:11 Tiffany Hogan: The south they're characteristics are, very caring, concerned with group feelings. So, feelings is the critical part here and they wanna be certain that everyone has been heard, everyone's ideas are considered before acting. So they're those people in meetings who say "I haven't heard from Julie. I'd like to hear what she has to say." That that's really always on their mind that everyone is heard and everyone's feelings are attended to. West is those who are really focused on planning, they're very detail-oriented and they need to know the who, what, why, when, and where and how, before they act. So they wanna have all the details pin down. And I really like those people 'cause I'm not as detail oriented.
0:34:51 Tiffany Hogan: So I think that if you think... I have to say when I had that team, it was really high functioning team because we had all of these points covered but we also did have to have some crucial conversations at times to get each other's perspective. The other part, I love that you do in this activity Kelly is, you have people organized by their self-identified compass point. And then they answer some questions which are quite fun. Like adjectives or short phrases that describe the strength of your group, the limitations of your group, which group do you find most difficult to work with and why? And what do others need to know about your group in order to be effective?
0:35:31 Tiffany Hogan: So you could even think internally, as you're listening to this podcast, which one are you and how would you answer some of those questions like strengths, limitations, The group that you find difficult and why. And also what other people need to know about you in order to work with you effectively, 'cause that could help you communicate in your own team. So Kelly, what are some of the funny things you remember about those group activities.
0:35:55 Kelly Farquharson: Well sorry to me and Julie. But most people find the north the most difficult to work with. Which I've always really found funny because I think once I do reveal to my students or even to your class that I identify as a north I think it could be surprising because there's this "Oh, well, I don't think of you as hard to work with". Although certainly there may be some exceptions to that. But I think it's interesting because we do first kind of self-identify and then we think about why some of these characteristics are seen as both strengths and limitations. So I think it's a nice reflective opportunity. And I think just really having the conversation of, without judgement, why would you find this particular group, the most difficult to work with? So it's not that I don't care about people's feelings, I don't necessarily identify as a south but it's certainly not the case that I don't care about people's feelings through the process.
0:36:51 Kelly Farquharson: I tend to be a little bit more focused on making sure that we're taking action and moving forward. But this has also helped me make sure that I am circling back to make sure that everybody does feel included. I think that's the funniest thing for me. And you mentioned the different context in which you might operate under. And so, my husband I have identify as a north, I'm going to identify his compass point for him. I identify him as a west very detail-oriented, which has been super helpful for me when we're planning trips and stuff. He takes care of a lot of those points, but it's not the case that I don't have that capacity. So I think that's another important thing to remember is that if I'm traveling by myself it's not like I get lost.
0:37:32 Kelly Farquharson: I can take care of the details I just prefer not to. And so I think these are really helpful in thinking about areas that you prefer to work in when you're working in a team in particular. And I think that's another thing to keep in mind. One more point that I wanted to just make, circling back to something that Julie said. One of the reasons that all of these activities have been helpful for me. So the leadership program, the crucial conversations, the compass points activity, the Myers-Briggs assessments is really because it helps me remember that these are skills that can be improved.
0:38:07 Kelly Farquharson: And so I know that as a young clinician as a young researcher, I was maybe not so good at some of these points and not that I'm exponentially better now, but I've certainly used these opportunities to grow and to read more, to watch more YouTube videos, read more books in this area to help improve some areas of weakness of my own. And I think that's an important takeaway is that these are skills you can improve as long as you want to. And for me, it's really inspirational to see that you two who I admire and look up to, and my mentor and my fairy god mentor are actively continuing to work on this self-improvement. And I think that's something so important for clinicians and researchers to know is that these are skills we can improve as long as we put the effort in.
0:38:53 Julie Wolter: I love that Kelly and I do think circling back again to these exercises, whether they're based on solid scientific foundation, that's debatable.
0:39:06 Kelly Farquharson: Sure.
0:39:07 Julie Wolter: What it allows for. And what it sounds like you've been able to do in your classroom situation. I certainly do with my faculty is it allows for the conversation. And to be able to have a similar language to then have the discussion about how do you prefer to receive feedback, how do you prefer to have a meeting go? What's your comfort level in making sure, again, you're heard? And those are then the conversations that you can have in a very transparent and crucial way that allow for us to gain insight into each other to have a more effective team. And then be more effective leaders. So, I'll share with you... Tiffany knows this 'cause I got to see her in Boston last week because I was there for a couple of weeks with the Harvard Leadership Institute, there was... I went to a management development program for two weeks and it...
0:40:05 Julie Wolter: It was wonderful. And again, I take the time and know that I need to continue to develop in these skills. Like you said, Kelly, I don't know if everyone knows I'm a north or they know I get things done. And I'm pretty tenacious, and working to implement things, to make great change but the reality is that you're absolutely right. We can't just be looking at leadership through our one lens that by the way we're very comfortable with in a particular context. And so one of the things that I thought was just so helpful at this institute and certainly I'm learning from leaders that have devoted their lives to focusing on this particular piece, but...
0:40:47 Julie Wolter: Bolman and Deal are two researchers that have talked about reframing organizations, they have a textbook on this. But they think about, they present this idea that there's four frames of leadership, and how we need to view and think about our own leadership styles. And you might have preferences, but a good leader will be able to change from one frame to another and be able to lead through those frames. And so, the frames include the structural frame. Thinking about an organization and thinking about how you lead in terms of policies, procedures, those real specific details that we just talked about, those are important. Some people are really comfortable in that frame. Maybe they stay in that frame, but then you also would need this human resource frame, which is really focused on communications, relationships.
0:41:49 Julie Wolter: What we were talking about, if you think about that strengths finder, it's that relationship building. You're thinking about the glue that holds the team together, you're thinking about the unique ability to create change by thinking about collective energy, those kind of things. That would be the human resource that term is what they use. The other frame is what they consider the symbolic frame. And the symbolism is really about that culture. The culture of a group. Coming in and making change. How are you thinking about how you're changing the culture and the dynamics of a group?
0:42:29 Julie Wolter: And spending some time having discussions and crucial conversations around that is really important. That's probably the frame by the way, a little bit weaker in because I want to move to change quickly. I don't always take as much time as needed to really explore those symbolic, the symbolic lens of, what does this mean for change, for example.
0:42:54 Julie Wolter: And then finally the fourth frame is thinking about political that we do you need to be strategic and how as leaders, if you are making change you need to make sure that all your stakeholders and who are they. 'Cause there's lots of different stakeholders. In a school system. You have your parents, you have your teachers, you have your professionals, you have your principals you have... I work on, I dyslexia task force for the state I'm thinking of my legislatures, I'm thinking of my Office of Public Instruction. And what are their goals and trying to match and think about how what I do... We can come up with a solution that's similar. We might have very different lenses, but how do I bring us together to come up with that? We all have one goal that we can work on from a visionary perspective.
0:43:46 Julie Wolter: So, I put that out there because I've been really thinking about how I continually shift and pivot between these frames and if there is one area that I might not be as strong in, it doesn't mean that I don't need to work on it as a leader, be aware of it, be strategic and then even identify team members that are really strong in this to help remind me in a meeting for example. "We didn't talk about this and let's explore this." And by the way, give them empowerment to have the crucial conversation to again, be a rational authority in a meeting. Where I might be leading it. They need to feel like they can interrupt me as well, right?
0:44:25 Tiffany Hogan: It's interesting that those four frames do map on...
0:44:29 Julie Wolter: They do.
0:44:30 Tiffany Hogan: Quite well too...
0:44:30 Kelly Farquharson: I was wondering that.
0:44:31 Tiffany Hogan: Yeah, it seems you need to...
0:44:33 Julie Wolter: And that's exactly what I was thinking that even though we have our compass of where we fit and even the strengths finders, it maps on very readily in terms of those quadrants, that... Yes, so having the discussion of where are you on the compass? We complement each other, but by the way you need to be skating between those all the time, right?
0:44:58 Kelly Farquharson: Absolutely.
0:44:58 Julie Wolter: And adapting your leadership and a good leader like you said, Kelly, you're likely a very good leader when they say they don't identify you as a north because you readily change across all of those quadrants. And hopefully I would hope on my good days, that people would think that about me. But certainly there are days when I just think I just gotta get it done, and I get into that mode and I have to stop myself. "Wait a minute, there's some other pieces I need to be thinking about here"
0:45:27 Tiffany Hogan: Actually, it's not uncommon for me... Talking about skating between those as an east big picture to sit down with my team and go" Okay, we gotta build a frame here we gotta look at the details." I just almost... I just try to admit like, "Oh okay. This is not my favorite part, but we can do this, we gotta do it." It's almost like I have to reframe the importance of this within my own view of big picture.
0:45:52 Tiffany Hogan: It's like, I'm constantly like "Okay, we have to... We're gonna do these details 'cause here's the bigger picture." Back to what you said, Kelly, about this activity, what struck me about it... The north thing is very funny, too, that people are like "Oh, north." But what struck me the most... I have a love for north. But I think that what struck me is that when we got in the groups everyone was like, "Oh my gosh. You're like me" and everyone felt so good, like "Oh you're just like me." But then in that process you also realize even through the activity why you need other people. So, of course, you can imagine the east group that I was in, we were all these big picture, talking it out, so we had a 15-minute timeline and we were the ones that never got done.
0:46:32 Tiffany Hogan: And we were thinking like, "Oh we really needed to have a north with us to help us get done. And so, through the process, it was kind of a bad experience that was really funny. And then, of course, the wests, and the norths were done right away. Right away. And then the south and the east are just talking it out and really getting into it and 15 minutes we weren't done. I think that's really critically important. I know we have to wrap up our time. This has been such a great discussion, I think what I wanna do for a few minutes before we wrap up.
0:47:02 Tiffany Hogan: And we've touched on it tangentially. But I wanted to highlight one of the components of crucial conversations that I often think about, and that is the acronym they use to have a crucial conversation and the acronym is STATE, which I like 'cause it's kind of like state your thoughts. The first part of it, S is for share your facts. So that is when you're having a crucial conversation... And I'm gonna use your example Kelly, of talking to the teacher, so I can make this really clear as possible.
0:47:30 Tiffany Hogan: If you're sharing your facts there, you would just say that this is what you're observing. And it goes into the T, tell your story. So what you would do is you would say. "When I come... " You would say, "When I come to the door, what I notice is when I ask for the child, you roll your eyes and you shut the door. And so what I'm starting to conclude... " So you're telling your story. "What I'm starting to conclude from these actions... " So those are the facts, this is what's happening. "My story is that you don't want me to see your children or I'm also starting to even think... You don't think that what I'm doing is valuable."
0:48:10 Tiffany Hogan: And then we want to ask for the other person's path. That's the A. So ask their path, so say "Please tell me how you're perceiving this interaction. What's really going on here from your perspective?" So then you have to listen very carefully and you have to also want to... In the next T of STATE you want to talk tentatively. So you wanna share your perception. But you don't wanna create as facts... So you wanna be careful you're talking about the facts which are the facts are, she rolled her eyes, she shut the door.
0:48:39 Tiffany Hogan: But the fact is not that she doesn't want you to be there, that's your fact that's the story you're telling yourself. But the facts are the facts and the story is your perception of it. And I think what's interesting about crucial conversations, what really got me in reading the book is that those facts and the story you tell yourself become so tied in your mind that the facts become this person doesn't want me here. That becomes a fact in your mind, but that's actually not a fact, that's your perception. That's not a fact that's the perception.
0:49:09 Tiffany Hogan: And so you have to talk tentatively and really encourage yourself to separate out what's fact versus what is my perception. And then you wanna encourage testing. So the testing part for the E is making it safe and clear to the person that it's okay for them to have a different perspective. And that you are making very clear to them what are the facts versus what is your perception and that you're very open to a different perception, that you're open to their facts. So that you're not saying... Again, you can think about the conversation going both ways, if you use the STATE model of sharing your facts, telling your story, asking for the other person's path, talking tentatively and encourage testing that conversation would be... It would be very clear to that teacher that you're not accusing them. That you're trying to take some of the emotion out of it and that you are open to their perception in the way we mentioned.
0:49:58 Tiffany Hogan: But the other way would be to just go to her and say "I'm coming to see this child and it's very clear to me that you just don't want me to be there."
0:50:08 Tiffany Hogan: "It's obvious, it's obvious. You don't care about what I do, blah, blah, blah." Now, you can imagine the emotions are getting high. You've put words in the person's mouth. They didn't say that there were actions but they didn't say that. And it just shuts down the conversation. It creates something very defensive. We always say in my house put on the helmet for football and start to plan defense, and so we'll say "Take the helmet off". So it's get very defensive, it's automatic reaction. And so the whole point of crucial conversations is trying to eliminate that defensiveness that's very human and human nature. And to encourage this open dialogue.
0:50:43 Kelly Farquharson: Absolutely, and I think I love that acronym too, because that was revolutionary for me. I have to admit, because it really does... I'm very good at telling myself stories about what I think someone else is thinking or what has to absolutely be true about a particular situation because of my experience with it. And my perception of it. And so I think this idea of just stating the facts helps you boil down what actually happened.
0:51:11 Kelly Farquharson: So this person never said I don't like you get out of my classroom anything. This is both a personal and professional weakness of mine that I tell myself these stories of what could possibly have happened here. And so that just very first part of that acronym. Share your fact or state the facts has been... "Okay. What I do know, is I walked into the room and she closed the door." That is actually all I know. I also know how I felt as a result of that.
0:51:40 Kelly Farquharson: So I can tell my story, but I think one important thing that I wanted to tie to just in terms of some resources for your listeners, is that that part to tell your story, you don't get very far into that acronym before it starts to really feel difficult. That's probably the hardest part is telling your story because it's very vulnerable to say "This is something that happened. So here's the reality, here's the fact. And here's how it made me feel." And that's hard because you're showing your vulnerability, and you're really showing maybe some anxiety that you have or maybe some of your own insecurities that that can be really hard to share, especially with a person who perhaps in the situation you might not necessarily want to share that vulnerable part of you.
0:52:21 Kelly Farquharson: And so I've really enjoyed the work of Brene Brown in this area of vulnerability and her TED Talks, and her books, because that has also helped me understand how important it is to be transparent and to show that part of you. That's not something that's easy for me. And so that's something that, again, I've continued to be able to work on because I think about it and I want to get better in that area, but it is hard. That's for sure.
0:52:45 Tiffany Hogan: It's very difficult. And I think using that example the listeners may be thinking, "But wait, what if the teacher says... Yeah I don't respect what you do." That was right, your stories, right? I think that's still... You still have tools in the crucial conversations toolbox, and that is to constantly reframe for purpose. So let's say the teacher does think that and you say, "Okay. I respect your opinion but I do want us to think about why I'm here, what is our... And I know you."
0:53:15 Tiffany Hogan: You can say "I assume, and I want to confirm you care what happens with this child this child does well. I also share that purpose. So, we're coming from a shared purpose. So then coming from that shared purpose can we then think of a solution to this that we're both comfortable with?" And so it really does kind of focus on that mutual purpose and then mutual respect. 'cause then you're saying to the person, even though maybe they're showing in your mind, a disrespect for you, or what you're doing, but you can still... When we refocus on the purpose, you're showing them a respect right there.
0:53:49 Julie Wolter: Absolutely, and I guess going with that, the other part that I think is powerful and even shifting this a little bit because I think we can think of it in a... We think this professional way, where it's like "Well... Yeah, I might lose a little bit of a relationship with this individual, but it's okay because that person's not close to me. I don't have a long-term relationship, I only see them once a week." Then think about the stakes are so much higher when you start thinking about perhaps your boss, or you think of a context in which it's...
0:54:27 Julie Wolter: So I don't know, I'm thinking about in the school this is with your the special education and related service provider, you're trying to work very closely with as an SLP. This is a daily interaction. Now the stakes are even harder and higher that you've got to work through this, right? And that is the crucial conversation. I know that another acronym that's used in that I find helpful is the CPR acronym. That's the one... Also from "Crucial Conversations", and they talk about the content, the pattern and the relationship. And I think especially when it's more than a one-time thing that's absolutely when you need to have the crucial conversation that there are patterns. And so the way to get around that, the way to think about that is, the context is "Yes, the...
0:55:16 Julie Wolter: So pardon me, that the context... Things are happening in context in this case it's something that's affecting you, you need to make it change to be able to... In this case, for example, do your job and what if every time you went to go pull a child or go into a classroom that door closed, right? There's a pattern now, right? So now it's not about a one-time thing. Oh, well that day, we had a test going on. 'Cause have you had that instance where there's always an excuse, that you have tried to actually address it and there's always an excuse.
0:55:55 Julie Wolter: And so now, the CRP allows you to get into, I love the crucial conversations is what is the real issue here? And so the C is content. The content is "Whenever I go to the door to be part of that, engage in what I... my job is, you close the door." That's the content but the pattern is that your action indicates that I'm not a valued member of this team, and also that I'm not able to do my job as I need to. And then you can talk to you. The R is about the relationship, and if this is a vital. Sometimes that is the real problem. You might try and solve it. She's not gonna close the door now, but she still sigh.
0:56:46 Julie Wolter: She still... Whatever it is that unless you talk about what the real problem is, is that you're not valuing me as an equal member of this team, our relationship then you're not really having the crucial conversation. And I think that's the other big challenge, not just the vulnerability that I really loved you mentioning that, Kelly, but even really taking the time to think about what is the real problem. Am I talking about a symptom, the actions, the content or am I talking about... In this case, the relationship was really what I needed to address. And that sometimes takes a while to figure out what is the real issue going on that I'm gonna walk away from this feeling like at least we addressed it.
0:57:28 Tiffany Hogan: I think that's really critical. And I'll wrap up our conversation by saying just a few more points. What a great conversation, thank you so much, Julie, and Kelly. I think that Kelly you mentioned this, this is something you have to practice. 'cause one thing about crucial conversations, they say is that you should be able to have the conversation right on the spot. And we've talked a lot about what you have to evaluate internally. So it almost sounds like we're saying "You need to take a long time to think about this" but what happens, I think, is that as you practice these skills you become quicker to do it in the moment, 'cause then you can use the verbiage, you can do separate quickly fact versus story, look for patterns. And what I've learned too is that as you do this as a colleague and even as a friend is that you can then start to say things like "Trust me, because if there is a problem, I will bring it forward" because then if you're maybe you have a situation when you're kind of always questioning the other person's actions, right? So you're like "I don't know" and I feel this in the leadership role a lot where I can say...
0:58:24 Tiffany Hogan: Someone say "Well, you did this, so I thought you were mad or you did this, and I thought you were happy with my performance or you did this, and I thought you left me out." But when you are, when you have these conversations, you can tell that person. "Don't worry, I will come to you and have a conversation. I'm not afraid to have crucial conversations." And then also you can encourage them to have those conversations with you. So I think it builds a really strong trust when you can do it well, and do it often and practice it with your team.
0:58:53 Tiffany Hogan: And the other key point I think to remember, is that one big focus in the book is that if emotions are high, you should actually end the conversation. So if it... Because... You're supposed to be constantly be monitoring and if the emotions are just too high, the other person's just too emotional, it's very okay to say "I know this is, this seems to be very stressful. You're emotional. Let's take a break and take some time to process and come back together and start over." And that's very appropriate to do that, and then you can gauge the time based on how quickly you have to move on a situation, you say "I'll give you an hour. We really need to solve this or let me know in a few days, if it's maybe less time-oriented and sensitive."
0:59:36 Tiffany Hogan: So thank you again for your time and I just really appreciate this conversation. I'm hoping that the listeners also... It drives them to think more deeply about the words that they're using and the stories they might be telling and they can maybe look into these resources, the books and there's some great online resources as well.
0:59:59 Julie Wolter: Tiffany you can decide to... This is funny on a podcast, you can decide to cut this out maybe you don't have enough time. Can I read a poem to you? Somebody just gave this to me.
1:00:11 Tiffany Hogan: Oh that's great, I will not cut this. Of course, I'd love it.
1:00:14 Julie Wolter: Well, no from somebody at this leadership conference, I was just at... I now have it next to my desk and I'm loving it. So, it's a poem for a leader by John Donahue from the book "To Bless the Space Between Us" and it's an Irish blessing. Okay. "May you have the grace and wisdom to act kindly, learning to distinguish between what is personal and what is not. May you be hospitable to criticism. May you never put yourself at the center of things. May you act, not from arrogance but out of service. May you work on yourself, building up and refining the ways of your mind. May those who work for you know, you see and respect them. May you learn to cultivate the art of presence in order to engage with those who meet you. When someone fails or disappoints you may the graciousness with which you engage be their stairway to renewal and refinement."
1:01:20 Julie Wolter: "May you treasure the gifts of the mind through reading and creative thinking so that you continue as a servant of the frontier, where the new will draw its enrichment from the old and you never become a functionary. May you know the wisdom of deep listening, the healing of wholesome words, the encouragement of the appreciative gaze, the decorum of held dignity the spring time edge of the bleak question. May you have a mind that loves frontiers so that you can evoke the bright fields that lie beyond the view of the regular eye. May you have good friends to me mirror blind spots. May leadership, be for you a true adventure of growth."
1:02:06 Tiffany Hogan: Oh, thank you so much.
1:02:07 Kelly Farquharson: I love that.
1:02:08 Tiffany Hogan: Thank you, Julie, I really appreciated that. Thank you so much for both of you for being on the podcast.
1:02:15 Kelly Farquharson: Of course.
1:02:16 Julie Wolter: Love being here. Thank you, you too.
1:02:20 Tiffany Hogan Check out www.seehearspeakpodcast.com for helpful resources associated with this podcast including, for example, the podcast transcript, research articles, & speakers bios. You can also sign up for email alerts on the website or subscribe to the podcast on apple podcasts or any other listening platform, so you will be the first to hear about new episodes.
Thank you for listening and good luck to you, making the world a better place by helping one child at a time.