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Jeff Hancock: The Future of Lying

Are your conversations between your friends, family, coworkers deceptive or fierce? You tell us.

What is the long-term impact of social media and other technological outlets on your day-to-day conversational abilities in business and life?

Harvard Business Review – A Presentation Isn’t Always The Right Way To Communicate

Forbes Magazine – Social Media Disrupts The Communication Landscape

Forbes Magazine – Successful Business Conversation

Forbes Magazine – 10 Steps To Effective Listening

Building A Better World, One Conversation At A Time

This hadn’t happened to me often before.

I could feel Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott, beginning to make a dramatic and positive effect on me before I had even finished reading the book. Its notion that struck me immediately and was sweeping me along through the final page was the belief that, between any two people who know each other, the conversation is the relationship. Scott’s book was making me rethink every relationship I have.

I assure you that Fierce Conversations can improve the most important relationships in your life and make your ordinary relationships extraordinary.

Many of us have heard an adage that goes something like this: “Tell me what book you’re reading now, and I’ll tell you what you’ll be talking about over the next three months.” This is almost always true for me. As a business adviser, I need constantly to find fresh ways to explain and reinforce our NextStep principles to our clients. That’s one of the things that keep me looking for good books.

If you are in a leadership role in at least one aspect of your life, you must read Fierce Conversations. You don’t have time? Then sit with me over coffee, and discuss some of its key concepts. The author is the founder and CEO of Fierce Inc. Her company’s mission is to transform the conversations that determine their clients’ success. The vision of Fierce Inc. is to build a better world—one conversation at a time.

What is “fierce” conversation? From Scott’s perspective, it’s what happens when we come out from behind ourselves to step into the conversation and make it REAL. She challenges us by asserting that, while many of us are afraid of “real,” it is unreal conversations that should scare us to death because they are irreversibly expensive. Talk isn’t cheap; too often it’s wasteful.

In our NextStep engagements, my partner and I come across many complicated business challenges and scenarios. Today’s brutal economic challenges are killing top-line growth for many companies. In numerous cases, we hear from our clients, there are tremendous limitations on how a company can respond to case-specific dilemmas. Even in a decent economy, there is no easy solution to complex challenges like declining top line.

American Red Cross relief workers will tell you that, no matter how many disasters you respond to, no two are alike. We find that everyone has to fight his or her own unique forest fire. However, we see overwhelming evidence to support Scott’s claim about the disabling effect and expensive negative impact that “unreal” conversations make on nearly every company. At NextStep we call it the invisible killer. Unreal conversations—talking past one another, saying, “I know what you mean” (when you don’t), not taking time to share lessons learned—are perhaps even more damaging to individuals in their nonbusiness relationships.

Think about it. What conversations have you been unable or unwilling to have—with a spouse, boss, colleague, employee, child, or with yourself—in the last week that, if you were able to have, might change everything?

I need to reiterate my claim that, unlike most business leaders’ inability to affect top-line growth in the current economic environment, engaging in real conversations is possible in your organization tomorrow, and the next day, and next week. Susan Scott and her Fierce Inc. team assert that once you have tasted this illusive thing called candor—served with intelligence, passion, and skill—all possibilities will expand and, when sustained, will revolutionize your corporate culture.

Conversations are the workhorses of your company. Think again of the benefits of “real” or fierce conversations to your company with more truthful and creative brainstorming sessions, with clearer and well-constructed objections to poor ideas being forced into action, or with honest feedback about the dysfunctions and lost productivity caused by poor—even angry—leadership.

When you think of fierce conversation, think of passion, integrity, authenticity and collaboration. Think cultural transformation.

Fierce Conversations reminded me of a quote on effective leadership by 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

A few years ago, I heard Bill Parcells, the famous professional football coach and executive, say that the toughest person you’ll ever have to confront in life is yourself. Parcells’s claim convicted me on the spot.

Coincidentally, I was reading Fierce Conversations at the time. The combination of Parcells and Scott was perfect harmony. Parcells challenged me to follow Rumi’s words of wisdom, and Scott skillfully provided the cookbook to take even better control of my conversations … of my relationships … of my effectiveness … of my life.

I am trying to encourage you to set a similar course, and NextStep is positioning to help you.
In the meantime, I encourage you to think about that earlier quote “Tell me what book you’re reading now, and I’ll tell you what you’ll be talking about over the next three months.” So if our paths cross in the next couple of months and I ask you what you’re currently talking about, what will your answer be?

Pete Herrmann is a partner in NextStep Advisors, whose mission is to help privately-held businesses achieve success and develop long-term sustainability through leadership development, process improvements, and effective management. He can be reached at or (209) 521-2690.