Week 16: Critical Conversations as an Administrator: #SAVMP

“We succeed or fail one conversation at a time.”

Hard conversations are never easy. Regardless of how “right” they may be, it doesn’t make it any easier on the person giving it, or the person receiving it. It can be one of  the most difficult parts of an administrators job, and can easily turn into a disaster. When problems arise, in the worst companies people will withdraw into silence. In the best companies, people will hold a crucial confrontation, face to face and in the moment. And they’ll hold it well.

Dialogue example – Steps to Mastering a Crucial Conversation

Before embarking on a critical, or crucial, conversation…ask yourself these three questions:

  1. How important is it for the students or staff that I bring this up? Is it a “me” thing or is it an”impacting student success” thing?
  2. Is what is going on in the classroom unsafe or damaging to students or staff?
  3. What would happen if I didn’t have the conversation?


Other tips to keep in mind:

  • Have a plan. Who will be involved in the conversation? Where will it take place? When will it happen? Will it be documented?
  • What should your role be? Remember to listen to all parties involved. Be genuine in your efforts to resolve the issue at hand. Find a solution that fits. Beware of hidden agendas.
  • You are the LEADER. It all begins and ends with you. The tone, intent, and follow through are all going to depend on how you handle the situation.

There will be a google hangout this week on “Critical Conversations”, stay tuned! (I will update this post when time and guests are decided!)


For your prompt for this week, blog about how you handle crucial conversations and at what point you step in to have them. What advice would you give to a new administrator in having to have a crucial, or fierce, conversation?

Have a great week, and where ever you are, stay warm!


Resources used  and for more information:

Crucial Conversations:  Tools for talking when stakes are high  Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Crucial Accountability:  Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Fierce Conversations:  Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time

Susan Scott

Critical Conversations for Dummies

Dr. Christina Schlachter



2 Comments on Week 16: Critical Conversations as an Administrator: #SAVMP

  1. dmitzel
    December 10, 2013 at 9:06 pm (10 years ago)

    I like Question #3 – What will happen if I don’t have the conversation? I believe this has the greatest impact on students (and staff). So many times in our educational leadership roles, we come across new pedagogy and/or ideas that would greatly benefit students and their success in the future, that we fail to bring it up. Reasons could be: staff climate, personal/school issues beyond our control, or just plain busy. Yes our role as educational leader in a school requires the daily paper shuffle, conversations with parents, staff and students, and constant troubleshooting. If we are to model what we want our students to become, then we have to ask and have those conversations with staff. So take that deep breathe and walk right into the room and pose that difficult question. Don’t be the status quo.

  2. Rhoni McFarlane
    December 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm (10 years ago)

    One lesson I have learnt this year is not to assume that the message you intended was actually received in the critical conversation. Prof David Giles (Dean of Ed Flinders University) came to our school to explored the idea of relational leadership with our executive team. He suggested that one way to ensure you know how your conversation is understood is to have the other person reflect and record what the outcomes of the meeting were and then email it to you. This way you can get a clear idea of what the other person has taken away from the conversation. I think we can often feel like a conversation was successful, only for the other person to walk away defeated/deflated or worse or at the other end, still not realising there was an issue.


Leave a Reply