Last summer as I was thinking about how to tackle several thorny personal and professional situations in my life, I picked up Susan Scott's book Fierce Conversations. At its core this is a book about relationships, not conversations. But as Scott says, "The conversation is the relationship." And when conversations are superficial, controlled, inauthentic, avoided, heated, dishonest, or uncomfortable, then so are relationships.
Fierce Conversations is a self-help book for leaders. Scott wears no kid gloves, though she's not tough, just direct and straightforward, detailing a clear, methodical approach to conducting honest, effective conversations, accompanied by underlying principles to keep those conversations on track. She is an unrelenting champion of personal accountability, as she describes here:
The most successful leaders invariably determine to engage in an ongoing, robust conversation with themselves, paying fierce attention to their work and lives, resulting in a high level of personal authenticity, ferocious integrity, emotional honesty, and a greater capacity to hold true to their vision and enroll others in it....Fierce conversations are about moral courage, clear requests and taking action. Fierce is an attitude. A way of conducting business. A way of leading. A way of life.
Whew. Having put Scott's approach to work, I can attest that fierce attention is in fact required to master her techniques. They are not easy! And yet I have used them to great effect. And as with any skill, I get better at them with each use, conversation-by-conversation. As I seek to sharpen my own leadership skills and to up the level of true connection in important relationships in my life, Fierce Conversations is a resource I return to regularly for guidance.
Image: Fierce, Inc.