By Fred Koenig
Fierce conversations may sound like a rough way to go at a topic, but you must consider the definition of fierce that Susan Scott uses in her book Fierce Conversations: robust, powerful, authentic, eager, engaging, unbridled.
About 200 Missouri Conference leaders came together in Springfield the day before Annual Conference started to participate in a workshop based around the principles in the Fierce Conversations book. They were split into two rooms; one focused on generations, the other on teams.
One of the facilitators was Molly Breazeale, who has spent most of her career in corporate leadership training. She said two things have become very clear to her through the years.
People support a world that they helped create.
Decisions are best made at the level they are to be carried out.
When working in corporate training at Nationwide, the insurance company, she encountered a corporate culture of “Nationwide Nice”, in which people were reluctant to have conversations that could hurt someone’s feelings. She emphasized that sometimes you have to go beyond nice.
“It’s not nice to not tell people what they really need to hear, and do it in a respectful way,” she said. Many people greatly appreciate it when someone finally helps them see what they are doing wrong.
Acknowledging that the church has some tough conversations coming, she said people need ways to have conversations that are rich, meaningful and relevant. She discussed the idea of how problems develop gradually, then suddenly.
Breazeale said it is as though we are telling ourselves, “I can wait until this gets worse than it is right now.”
With the focus of this workshop being on teamwork, Breazeale shared methods for drawing on the wisdom of everyone around the table, including internal thinkers, who may be slow to speak up. She advised the think, write, share method, in which everyone considers an issue, writes down their thoughts about it on a note card and then shares those thoughts with the group.
Rev. Jon Thompson of First UMC in West Plains agreed about the importance of making sure everyone is heard.
“Having a voice at the table gives someone a sense of purpose,” he said.
At the same time as the Team Track, Luis Gonzáles was teaching a Fierce Conversations workshop on the Gen Track, focusing on challenges created by a generational divide.
For more information about the Fierce Conversation method, go to www.fierceinc.com.