Crucial Conversations

A crucial conversation is one where the stakes are high, the opinions are different, and the emotions are strong. Many conversations in education are crucial conversations because children’s education is at stake, teachers have different teaching styles, and teaching is passionate. So, what do you do when you need to have a conversation about something as scary as change? You sit down with each other and LISTEN. In today’s digital age, it may seem like a waste of time to sit and talk instead of sending an email. However, we know how tone can get lost in typing, and true dialogue does not occur. To create change, we need to be able to talk about it – in person and together.

Having these conversations can be intimidating because we feel vulnerable, but in that vulnerability is where effective communication lies. We cannot be silent or passive, as this is lonely, ineffective, and wasteful. If we want to be successful we need to TALK about our innovation plan and our intentions for implementing the plan using the 6 Sources of Influence and 4DX, remembering the “why” throughout the conversation.

To have a crucial conversation with dialogue, We first need to know WHY we are having it. The start of the change is me, and the only person I can control is myself, so I need to focus on my own thoughts before I bring them to the table. The first step of the process is to start with the heart – to think about what I REALLY want. Once I have done that, I will look carefully around me and within. “What are we talking about? What is going on beneath the surface? Has this become crucial? Does everyone feel safe? Is a feeling of being unsafe leading to silence or violence?” At this point, we need to step back to safety to discuss mutual purpose and mutual respect. I also need to remember that an appropriate apology regains the safe space rather than admitting a weakness. Once we have gotten back on the right path, it is important to master my stories by getting in touch with my feelings and being honest with myself. Then I can move to STATE my path by sharing my facts, telling my story, asking for others’ paths, talking tentatively, and encouraging testing as I express my thoughts in a way that is direct but respectful. Once I’ve shared my story, it is vital that I LISTEN to others involved and get their perspectives. Only then can we turn the talk into action as we make good decisions TOGETHER (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2012). The key to having a crucial conversation is simple, but easier said than done – listen and speak respectfully.

I want to be a good leader, a self-differentiated leader that connects with others without losing my own identity (Camp, 2010). To be this self-differentiated leader I will have to be willing to have the hard conversations, the ones that others don’t. Because of my knowledge of the process of the crucial conversation, I now feel confident in myself to discuss my innovation plan, 6 Sources of Influence, 4DX, and anything else that comes my way. It is my responsibility as an educator and leader to speak up so that we give our students the best and allow them to reach their full potential. I’m here and I am ready to talk.


Callibrain. (2015, August 20). Video review for Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson [Video file]. Retrieved from

Camp, J. [Mathew David Bardwell]. (2010, November 10). Friedman’s theory of differentiated leadership made simple [Video file]. Retrieved from

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Vital Smarts India. (2012, February 10). Crucial conversations explained in two minutes [Video file]. Retrieved from

Strategic Influence

Throughout my timeline for implementing my innovation plan I will be using the 6 sources of influence to create change in those around me. My EP Team of seventeen educators on campus will help generate momentum. Having these key influencers stay engaged in this change is my next focus. I have noticed the obvious, looked for crucial moments, learned from positive deviants, and spotted culture busters. My strategy to influence my organization is targeting both motivation and ability at the personal, social, and structural level to change vital behaviors and achieve our desired goal.​

At the same time, I will facilitate EP construction for my personal students. As the EP Team begins to develop and use their ePortfolios more people will want to join in and begin creating their own as well. As I have been developing my own ePortfolio I have been able to see the benefits and the magnitude of potential that there is for EPs in education. Using the 6 sources of influence I will spark interest and inspire others to use ePortfolios as well.

Seeing these children wash their hands is a perfect example on the importance of influence when trying to change behavior. I think this video helped to show this concept in an easy to understand and simple way. Many of the children did not begin washing their hands until four of the sources of influence were being used. Once multiple sources were used more of the children were influenced to wash their hands. This concept will be the same as to what I will be asking those around me to do. Tapping into social power will make all the difference.