Conversational Mastery

Conversations Count for Success…

Casual, crucial, caustic or contentious, conversations are the cement that holds teams together and connects us to others. In fact, they’re a core business process!

Whether you’re leading change, dealing with difficult discussions, building a better team, revitalising culture, energising classrooms, coping constructively with complaints or creating an exceptional customer service climate – the essential actions we all take happen almost entirely through conversations.

Business conversation

Whatever work you do or position you hold, conversations are at the core of what we do. They’re simply too important to ignore.

They’re the vehicle we use to generate and exchange ideas, sort out situations, and shape strategies and shared visions.​

Most actions we take happen through conversations. Take them away, and hardly anything would get done.​

Handling hard talks, conflict and confrontation Is the toughest test of our emotional and conversational capabilities. How well leaders and teams face up to difficult discussions to resolve differences is the true yard-stick for healthy work cultures.

Knowing when and how to use different conversational approaches and tools is a vital but neglected element for personal mastery, inspirational leadership, vibrant teams and business success…   And that’s where The Change Forum’s conversational coaching clinics come in.

Conversational capacity-building...

Our coaching clinics deal with real-life conversational challenges and practical tools practice in a safe, small group environment to help build your confidence to manage your future conversations in a more mindful and effective manner and make every one of them count. 

Conversational Coaching Scorecard

Rate yourself in 5 capability areas for conversational competency on our Conversational Coaching Scorecard.

Customised In-House Options

All The Change Forum programs can be delivered in-house in generic format or tailored to your special team or leadership development needs.

Tools & Techniques

A variety of down-to-earth, easy-to-apply tools and techniques that will help you have constructive conversations and trouble-free tough talks.

Individualised Coaching

For those who prefer a more personalised approach or have specific issues they'd like to focus on.

Conversational Coaching Clinics

Leading Conversations

2-day Clinic for Leaders… Leadership is really a string of conversations and the calibre of conversations people engage in is a critical factor in creating vibrant and effective-functioning teams. In fact, conversations are really a core business activity! They ultimately determine the performance culture of your workplace. They’re the medium through which we build better team and work relationships, create rapport, connect with others, inspire, influence, energise, make decisions and move people to action.  Leading through Conversations is an update to our foundation Conversational Coaching Clinic that, over 2-days, explores 7 key Principles  for more powerful, penetrating and constructive conversations and provide positive foundations to move from destructive debate and adversarialism towards more skillful discussion and dialogue.

Constructive Conversations at Work

1-day or 2-day Clinic for everyone… 

Our effectiveness as members of high-functioning teams, crucially revolves round the ability to have good, meaningful and incisive conversations. Conversations are tantamount to a core work process. Yet while we engage in them all the time, the importance of conversations seems to escape us. Communication or lack of it, is a constant complaint in most workplaces.  They’re often competitive rather than collaborative, polite rather than to the point and often dominated by a few voices.

While we run a more specific program on Conversations for Leaders, Executives, this clinic is aimed at a broad, inclusive workplace audience to help all team members hone their conversational capabilities and widen the range of tools they can apply in all sorts of settings: one-on-one, team meetings, strategy and planning sessions, right through to larger group forums.

Talking with Teams

1-day Clinic for Teams & Leaders… The way teams talk together is a telling indicator of morale, culture, climate, performance and team cohesion. It’s a key element in the effective functioning of any team. Better conversation means better teamwork. Yet many of us work together for years and never take the time to reflect on how we come across or talk to each other. This 1-day fast-track clinic is condensed from our 2-day Leading through Conversations program, introducing 7 principles for more constructive conversations and set of foundation tools to help you replace dysfunctional debate with the art of more skillful discussion. Whether you’re a team leader or team worker, you explore how to apply a range of easy-to-learn discussion tools you can deploy in all sorts of settings in a supportive, safe and fun practice environment. Course Profile

Dealing with Difficult Discussions

Dealing with Difficult Discussions2-day Clinic for Leaders… Having challenging, confronting or contentious conversations is something every leader has to handle. Difficult discussions cause so much conflict and stress in workplaces, it’s a wonder we don’t work on getting better at them? Poorly handled or avoided, they detract from performance and erode work relationships. Trust evaporates, misunderstandings multiply and productivity plummets. This 2-day conversational coaching clinic equips you with a robust set of tools to navigate your way through those troublesome moments. Practise a more methodical, controlled and step-by-step approach to take the heat out of those close conversational encounters and get more constructive outcomes from them.

Tackling Tough Talks

  1-day fast-track Clinic for everyone… 1-day fast-track version of our Dealing with Difficult Discussions clinic.  Overview our unique 7-stage model for tackling tough talks and practise a selection of robust tools to help you navigate your way through those troublesome moments. We’ll unpack what actually goes on when talk becomes tense and walk through key steps for taking a more methodical, balanced approach to converting destructive discussion into constructive confrontation.

Positive Performance Conversations

Positive Performance Conversations1 or 2-day Clinic for Leaders… Dealing with poor performance, as most leaders will tell you, is one of the most commonly avoided and widely feared species of difficult discussions. It’s not identifying performance issues that’s the obstacle. It’s raising defensiveness – giving difficult feedback to people where their reaction is emotionally volatile, and the conversational course you chart, unpredictable. A special extension to our Difficult Discussions clinic, this 1-day practice-based program provides a step-by-step approach and carefully-crafted conversational formulas to help you feel more comfortable and competent to deliver difficult feedback and deal with low performers.

Making Performance Conversations Work for You

1-day Clinic for STAFF (Half-day in-house sessions by arrangement)… Most performance conversations training is only for leaders. But to work well, performance conversations should be two-way. This clinic attempts to level the playing field by helping STAFF (that’s you!) understand what a good performance conversation should be like and equipping you with tools to respond to and engage more positively with the whole process.

Making Performance Conversations work for You is structured around 12 Pointers for more Positive Performance Conversations that are compatible with the footings and frameworks we cover in our program for leaders – Positive Performance Conversations – so hopefully you can both be speaking the same language. 

The idea is to focus on future positive performance rather than past negatives. Focusing less on what’s wrong and more on what’s expected creates a different emotional climate that enables you and your manager to share even difficult feedback in constructive ways.

Persuasive Conversations

1-day Clinic for everyone… The general aim of this clinic is to “bolster” your conversational skills (within the constraints of a short workshop)  to communicate with more influence in areas such as how to:

  • Use positive strategies for more persuasive and balanced conversations
  • Advocate respectfully and robustly for a particular point of view
  • Put your position clearly but also encourage engagement from others
  • How to respectfully disagree or put an alternative point of view
  • Understand triggers for, and impacts of, conflict and challenging behaviours
  • How to deal with difficult meeting moments and maintain engagement
  • Put propositions persuasively and be more influential with other stakeholders
  • Talk round barriers and get more attention for, and uptake of, professional advice
  • Practise tools to facilitate more respectful, engaging and connective discussion
Building Conversational Confidence

 1-day clinic for everyone… We all want to have a say in conversations, but not all of us plunge fearlessly into them. For a good many, conversations can be a pretty scary, anxiety-provoking proposition. Whether it’s shyness, self-doubt, fearing you’ll say the wrong thing and make a fool of yourself, or feeling a bit awkward or out of your depth at times, many people zip their lips and say as little as possible. Building Conversational Confidence is about overcoming conversational reluctance; lessening your anxiety; saying what you have to say; and putting your views forward in ways that will be heard. It’s also about being able to stay engaged in, and follow, a conversation; listen to hear what others have to say, and connecting with them. For some, it might also be about making it safe for others to speak up, and learning how to include them better in your team talk’!

Review course outlines for our current collection of scheduled Conversational Coaching Clinics or “read more” for more detailed course information, scheduled dates and registration links…

More Themes for Learning

Reading about Conversations...

You can read more on Conversations, Difficult Discussions and Talking better in Teams in our range of Articles, FactFiles and seasonal e-zine Newsletters and recommended Sites & Readings — all available for free download to read and share with colleagues and friends.

Upcoming Courses & Events

Visit our online course calendar  from time-to-time for public programs currently on offer. If you’d like to arrange an in-house event tailored to suit your needs, get in touch below.

Start a conversation with us

(07) 4068 7591

(+61) 0429 687 513

(+61) 0429 687 591

PO Box 136, Mission Beach
Queensland 4852

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High Tension Encounters

High Tension Encounters (HTEs) happen regularly in any workplace  offices, schools, hospitals, councils, work-sites, factories… 

The negative impact of poorly-handled HTEs on colleagues, customers, patients and work-teams is well-attested. Whether it’s toxic personalities, inveterate arguers, belligerent bosses or conflict-ridden contrarians, HTE’s distract from productive work focus, detract from good results, debilitate teams, distress and unsettle us, and create caustic cultures in the long term…

  • The frequency of HTEs has been measured in several settings. For example, one study found 85% of us experienced chronic conflict in our work-lives, with 30% saying it was always or highly frequent. 
  • In schools, principals on average say they have five difficult encounters a day, while another study of operating theatres reported at least 1 and up to 4 HTEs among surgical teams per operation. 
  • Another study reported 64% said they were dealing with a toxic personality in their current work environment and 94% said they’d worked with someone toxic at some time. 
  • Other studies reveal that school principals are abused on a regular basis by parents and 91% of nurses reported verbal abuse from physicians or patients, with 10% saying they witnessed disruptive physician behaviour daily. 
  • The ongoing impact of these HTEs exact a significant emotional toll, with one study suggesting negative encounters affected people five times more strongly than positive ones.

The customary line is that conflict is beneficial – it clarifies, corrects, changes and leads to better solutions and decisions.

Yet another line of thought suggests something quite different: that it has prolonged negative consequences that undermine relationships, trust and collaboration as well as distracting from task-focus and wasting resources in prolonged conflict mediation processes that largely don’t work.… 

So, whether or not it is sporadically constructive, in many instances conflict it seems is damaging, harmful and linked to high stress and staff turnover. 

Building conversational capability to better deal with difficult HTEs may not reduce their frequency but it can help us to handle them better, have more constructive confrontations and mitigate some of the negative consequences that follow on the heels of unregulated conflict.

© Bill Cropper – The Change Forum 2023

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