Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book of the Month: Difficult Conversations

Book Club Members:

I have been commuting on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART, as we call it in the San Francisco Bay Area) daily, more or less, for 35 minutes each way since about 1985. I spend most of that commute time reading, so I've read a lot of books. I've always wanted to join a book club; my sister belongs to a mother-daughter book club which seems like such a fine idea. What I really need to do is organize a group of women lawyers who would meet on the same BART car once a month to discuss the book of the month. I'll put organizing that on my to-do list.

In the meantime, perhaps a virtual book club will suffice. The first book for our Club is selected by me (you can choose the next one). It is Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project. Here is a link to the Amazon page so you can get your copy http://tinyurl.com/difficult-conversations. Hurry though there are only 104 used copies available as of today. I first read the book in the summer of 2007 as part of the curriculum for the Hastings Leadership Academy for Women, and revisit it from time to time.

It is not a new book, nor is it a book about lawyers, law firm management or leadership. But it is a great little book with insightful thoughts on how to prepare for a difficult conversation, how to start the conversation without defensiveness, and how to keep it constructive and focused regardless of how the other person responds. Although it is useful for all sorts of difficult conversations, it is also a very useful approach to organizational management. The approach in this book promotes constructive discussions about the contributions to problems by the individuals involved in organizational dysfunction, rather than assigning blame. The approach is particularly helpful in thinking about difficult conversations in the context of performance reviews that are less than stellar.

Read on!

Cynthia

P.S. Have you used tiny url? It is really easier and is a much better mechanism for posting those horribly long strings of characters for websites you want to use in a message. The original string to the Amazon page was 129 characters; this link is only 42. Go to www.tinyurl.com to learn how.

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