Any synchronous or asynchronous engagement with team members may turn into a crucial conversation. At GitLab, we can develop the skills of sensing the tone of an async or sync conversation to uncover potential pain-points, risks, blockers, etc for team members. We need to find a way to create psychological safety for our people. Using a 1-1 can be a great way to gain context on a situation a team member is facing and hold a crucial conversation.
What is a Crucial Conversation: According to the book, a conversation to be crucial is that the results of it could have a huge impact on the quality of your life. A conversation involving a promotion, performance, debate between coworkers, etc. In short crucial conversations are discussions between two or more people where:
Most of us are good at avoiding them because it's human nature to avoid pain and discomfort when addressing a crucial conversation. So what do you do when faced with a crucial conversation?
At GitLab, there can be many instances where a crucial conversation is needed. Whether it is addressing the underperformance of a team member, discussing the results of promotion, interviewing, being notified that a high performer is leaving the team, etc. The Crucial Conversations book has strategies laid out that can help master one:
These are just a few strategies outlined in the Crucial Conversation book. We highly recommend reading it for leading teams at GitLab.
|GitLab Value||Crucial Conversation Connection|
|Collaboration||Crucial conversations are introduced not just by people leaders but by all GitLab team members. We are all managers of one and should feel enabled to open crucial conversations whenever necessary|
|Results||Crucial conversations are results-oriented. Conversations should focus on action that will improve the situation or problem for all members involved in the conversation.|
|Efficient||Crucial conversations can be evaluated via the CPR (Content, Pattern, Relationship) method to determine the root cause of the conflict or problem. This method allows for efficiency in approaching crucial conversations with specific tools depending on the context.|
|Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging||Everyone has a shared voice in a crucial conversation. The goal is to fill a shared pool of knowledge with facts and stories from all points of view. Hosts of crucial conversations should be open to having their stories challenged.|
|Iteration||Crucial conversations should happen early and often. The CPR (Content, Pattern, Relationship) encourages conversation early and often in the
|Transparency||Results, goals, and stories about crucial conversations are shared throughout teams to encourage more crucial conversations. While the content of specific conversations isn't always shared to maintain a safe space, the discussion about practicing crucial conversations keeps us accountable.|
The ability to influence is an essential leadership skill. To influence is to have an impact on the behaviors, attitudes, opinions and choices of your team members and others across GitLab and externally. Influence should not be confused with power or control. It is also not about manipulating others to get your own way. It is about noticing what motivates team members commitment and using that knowledge to leverage performance and results.
Leadership has sometimes been described as the ability to influence others. An effective leader does not move team members into action by coercion. An effective leaders will articulate the overall vision and goals for the organization. By doing such this can motivate and move team members to action by tapping into their desires and need for success. Positive influence that is properly channeled can also bring about transformation and change for team members, department, division and the company. A leader that exhibits and exerts positive influence in others will build trust and become a true driving force towards transparency, iteration, collaboration and results.
There are many different influencing strategies and in this section we are going to review 9 that leaders can review. Each strategy below will include a definition, example and ways for leaders to develop this strategy.
Having crucial conversations via a Zoom call might be more difficult than having the conversation in person. These strategies are meant to identify what makes having crucial conversations in an all-remote environment challenging and things we can try to make the conversations more effective.
Make space for pause. Silent pauses on a phone call might feel awkward or uncomfortable. These pauses are necessary for people to process feelings and stress and craft thoughtful responses during crucial conversations. Try using these phrases if you need to create a space for silence:
Can we wait one second before moving on to that topic?
I need a minute to think through this one.
Can we take a pause for a minute?
I need a few extra seconds/minutes to think through my response here
If you're in a crucial conversation and a team member uses one of these phrases to indicate they need a pause, remember to respect their need for time by:
What do you think?
Can I get your perspective/a different perspective on this?
How do you feel?
Can I get your feedback on...
Is this turning into a performance discussion?
Do we need to reschedule so we can all prepare?
Is this conversation about a specific problem?
Has this problem happened before?
What is the most pressing issue to address?
Is what is pressing for me the same thing that is pressing for others in the discussion?
During the Manager Challenge Program, we asked GitLab Managers what they had to say about holding crucial conversations"
Below are additional resources on influencing and leadership for you to review.