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Crucial Conversations

Every team and organization has problems. The difference between the best organizations and the rest is not how many problems they have, but whether they candidly discuss and resolve them. The difference is how they handle the Crucial Conversations that are key to resolving their problems.

Just about every day, you have a high-leverage interaction with someone that will have a long-term impact on your success. Whether you're working through a tough issue with a major customer or having a sensitive interaction with a team member, if these Crucial Conversations aren't handled well, you won't get the outstanding results you're after. For example, when was the last time you were faced with one of these Crucial Conversations?

  • A colleague has just missed a critical deadline. What do you say?
  • Your boss has a leadership style that is stifling you. You hesitate to speak up.
  • Your team has been getting poor results and no one wants to speak up or find out why.
  • Important issues are not brought up in a timely manner to those who can do something about them. Only those near the water cooler hear the issues.
  • One of your employees has accused another of racist comments. He continually labels others who are not the same as him.
  • You find yourself disagreeing with your boss and yet you act in meetings like you are fully supportive. The last person who disagreed was "shot on sight."
  • One of your employees loses his temper and yells at customers when under high stress. When you bring it up with him, he blames others.
  • Top performers are leaving, and poor performers are not challenged. Top performers are frustrated that others get away with as much as they do.

Dialogue is a tested cure for communication problems. How we speak up and listen during crucial conversations makes all the difference. During the last 20 years, Vital Smarts Inc. surveyed almost a half-million people, interviewed over 5000 individuals, and worked with hundreds of organizations to discover the best solution to communication problems. Here's what they found:

  • The biggest driver of productivity is how people talk with those who perform poorly.
  • The primary indicators of team excellence are 1) how people disagree with the boss; and 2) how team members handle problems with each other.
  • The most influential people are those who skillfully bring up subjects that others avoid.
  • The biggest predictor of safety is whether people challenge those who violate safety rules.
  • The key factor in diversity is how individuals deal candidly and respectfully with the offensive actions of others.


Crucial Conversations has produced dramatic results for thousands of individuals and organizations. By studying influential leaders, effective teams, and productive organizations, we have identified the principles and skills they use to master these kinds of Crucial Conversations. In skilled hands, these Crucial Conversations move into effective dialogue. If handled poorly, they degenerate into silence or violence.


Human Resource Development
A division of Human Resource Services

Phone: 801-422-5011
Email: hrd@byu.edu

Brigham Young University
2001 JKB
Provo, Utah 84602

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