Talk About What Matters: Content, Pattern, Relationship

[This is a follow-up to my post about three crucial books.]

“I talked to him, about his lapse. But he had a valid reason. Just like last time.”

Sounds familiar? Do you keep talking to someone about the same rule violations? Or worse, did you stop, because nothing ever changed?

Cover: Crucial Confrontation “Crucial Confrontations” suggests that you may have held the wrong conversation. After the first violation, that incident – the content – is the right thing to talk about.

“Yesterday you’ve made changes in the live branch, that you did not discuss with anyone. We have rules against this. Live changes are always risky and we want to minimize risk by requiring two sets of eyes to check for errors.”

If violations happened before, you can get you sidetracked, if you talk about the individual incidents. People tend to come up with good reasons for the single occurrences. “Sure, you’re right, but I had little choice, because of $extenuating_circumstance.” One of our scrum trainers used to counter strings of extenuating circumstances with “Excuses, excuses, excuses.” And he’s right. You’ve seen this before, multiple times. It’s about a pattern.

“We all agreed that no one would change the live branch without checking back with the product owner and having someone else there to double-check the code. Just yesterday you made a live fix and it’s not the first time. This seems to turn into a bad habit and I’m really worried.”

Don’t let the offender wiggle out by explaining away the individual incidents. It’s not about that anymore.

Last and worst, are continued violations. Because then it’s not about the incidents themselves, facts so to speak, but their long-term consequences for the relationship.

“We agreed that we discuss live changes with the product owner, so that we’re not stumped and lose time tracking down a sudden new live bug, that was inadvertently introduced by the change. Unfortunately you’ve violated our agreement several times and by now I’m constantly worried, you might break the production system. When something goes wrong, you’re the first one I suspect, because I know that you’re prone to change stuff on your own. I don’t want to be constantly checking and all suspicious. I want to be able to trust you.”

When I read about CPR in the book, I realized that I used to talk about content, when I should have talked about patterns or relationships. Confronting someone is not easy and to (wo)man up to it, just to be deflected with a good excuse, is frustrating!

Now most of my “serious talks” are about patterns and relationships (I find it really hard to separate the two) and that’s working better.

What about you? What are most of your confrontations about?

Related article: The DISC Behavioral Model