November 2015 ~ How To Get Things Done
November 2015 ~ How To Get Things Done
We have just been part of a local community drama and there are quite a few things that can be learned from that.
Without going into all the details, our community had an issue several years ago and one concerned neighbor mobilized the community to get involved and let our city know how we felt about some proposed development plans nearby. As part of the discussion of that topic, several people mentioned that our main street wasn’t safe and they were wondering if anything could be done about.
The city took those safety concerns to heart and hired a traffic consultant to look at our main road. Sure enough, the traffic consultant agreed with the residents – all intersections were unsafe and speed was an issue. Over the past 3 years, plans were made, budgets committed and work started on changes to the main road a few months ago.
Fast forward to Oct 2015: some residents are not happy about the changes as the main road is no longer a speedway and has been transformed into a neighborhood street with many changes in how people navigate in and around the community.
Some people created a lot of drama around the topic by posting angry messages on a community Facebook page, attending city council meetings, demanding the city "do something," gathering signatures on a petition and making up stories about what was happening and why. Most of the drama was caused by people who were not part of the original discussions 3 years ago for reasons that have never been clear, in spite of a concerted effort by the city to notify everyone in our community before plans were finalized.
Meanwhile, a few people contacted city staff directly and started working on possible ways to resolve the conflicts.
City staff invited one representative from each of the homeowner associations in the community to a meeting, along with the concerned citizen above who started it all and another resident who wants all the changes undone. The meeting lasted more than 3 ½ hours. Attendees shared their concerns. The city staff were very open and anxious to listen to concerns. They had been trying to understand what the real issues were, contrary to the "stories" that were shared by some people on social media.
The city had done their homework before the meeting and proposed some alternatives that the group discussed in great detail. Consensus was reached by the end of the meeting on what the next steps should be. Plans will be adjusted and outreach with the larger community will now occur. The people who attended the meeting went from apparent enemies to supporters — simply by having a professional discussion with the right people in the right way.
Since time and money are involved and work is in progress, project changes will be dealt with as soon as possible and budgets may need to be adjusted. There may need to be other smaller projects added later, rather than delaying a major project already under way.
The Crucial Conversations process covers a set of skills to improve communications and resolve conflict. One of the most important is what they call finding the "pool of shared meaning" – meaning finding some basis for understanding and agreement, so that the discussion can start from there (see graphic).
They define the Pool of Shared Meaning as "Each of us enters a conversation with our own opinions, feeling, theories and experiences about the topic. These make up our personal pool of meaning. When two or more people enter a crucial conversation, we build a pool of shared meaning — the more we add of each person’s meaning, the more information is available to everyone involved and the better the decisions made" (from http://www.crucialskills.com/glossary/#q20)
The major group of skills for Crucial Conversations includes:
I have taken the full Crucial Conversations training a couple times and additional repeats of small segments, and taught a 10 week study group using the book. This is the best communications training I have ever encountered. It works for business situations and personal situations. One of the organizations I worked for scheduled the Crucial Conversations training for every person in the organization (almost 2,800 people). They found it was very effective in improving all types of business relationships: manager/employee, peer-to-peer and with the organization’s clients.
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Page updated: October 30, 2015
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