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Communications Training

Want to really do something about communications on the job? Want the very best OD/Training tool available to accomplish that? Here it is. We firmly believe this is the best communication training program available…period. Communications training at its very best via leader-led Crucial Conversations training. Not artificial exercises, but communication training leading to opening up and eliminating barriers within your team and between teams.

Your team goes through this training together and will learn crucial communication skills that get elephants out from under the rug and make it safe to discuss them. They will learn specific communication skills to build trust, reduce fear and open the lines of communication. Your want to make sure team members know how to handle Crucial Conversations (when the stakes and emotions are high) see the question, "Would you rather I be honest or nice?" as a sucker's choice, and know how important it is and how to make it safe for those with conflicting opinions to share them. Stephen Covey, in his foreword to the book, Crucial Conversations that came out in June of 2002 (and was on the NY Times Top Ten Best Seller List by July) called this training a “breakthrough.”

Read about the research that clearly shows the most effective training strategies, by starting this training at the top…and have the leader lead. Then cascaded this team building program down in the organization. Leader-led lessons work best because the authors teach the cognitive content via an expert video, and the actual leader can facilitate the discussion about the application of the concepts to their particular group. There are also video vignettes, the overview CDs, the participant toolkit, the leader’s guide, a copy of the book Crucial conversations, and more. The lessons are about an hour long (fits into a staff meeting) and can be delivered once a week to maximize the benefits of spaced learning. If you have an OD/Training/HR department(s) they can play a very big role as well. Call us. Let’s discuss your needs.

Read the details of the training program, Crucial Conversations…the best communications training program on the market today.

Recent research by the Authors of Crucial Conversations...the New York Times Best Seller Book and Training Program by the same name has led to the development of a new approach to team-based communications training...leader-led lessons. See what the research says:

The Research

For over two decades, the authors of Crucial Conversations have studied what it takes to bring about lasting change. Here's what they say.

"And when we say study, we aren't kidding around. We examine people's heads, hearts, hands-and eventually how they act. Here's how we conduct our research.

Head. We start by examining if people get what has been covered. Do they even understand what they've been taught? This we do with a simple paper and-pencil test.

Questions cover categorical scripts (the mini-theory of what to do) as well as episodic scripts (do they know how to say what needs to be said?). If people fail these basic tests of understanding, there's no hope for change.

Hands. Next, we measure behavioral enactment. That is, can subjects actually do what has been taught? Can they turn theories, principles, and concepts into action? Do they say the words with the right style?' (This turns out to be much harder than we initially imagined.) If not, count on problems.

Heart. Next, we examine whether or not the subjects want to do what they've been taught.' After they've carefully gathered in the ideas and honed the skills, will they actually choose to use them? Strange as it may sound, after learning what and how to enact certain skills, people aren't always all that excited to put the skills into use. So they don't.

In summary, if people understand what to do, know how to do it, and desire to try out the new skills, they are quite likely to experiment with the skills and eventually change. That's the good news.

The bad news is that if you leave out a single one of these elements, the chances for change drop to zero. It's an all-or-nothing deal.

The impact? Finally, having taken care of all of our independent measures, we examine the dependent measure-do people actually enact the behaviors at work? To take the measure, we never rely on self reports. Instead, we ask subjects to report on their colleagues before the training, after the training, and months later. We measure actual on-the-job behaviors as reported by peers over time.


Once we've created measures of what's going on with people's motive and ability and linked these to actual change, we then explore different delivery methods. We vary the length of session, type and length of practice, the length of time between sessions, who trains, etc.

Which brings us to our punch line-what type of training leads to what type and level of change?


1. Train in short bursts.

If you're teaching skills, training sessions that take over an hour or two often lead to cognitive overload-too many ideas with too little time to assimilate them.

Most people have learned about all they can handle after covering one or two concepts, a couple of practices, and a commitment to go out and do something. This takes about forty-five minutes to an hour. Anything more and you're pushing the boundaries. People won't even remember the content if you pile one concept on top of another and deliver it over several hours.

2. Practice and practice.

To advance from simply passing a paper-and-pencil test to passing the behavioral test, the training needs to contain two elements. First, participants need time to practice the actual skill during the training (with feedback). That means they practice the skills and don't waste time in directionless role-plays. Participants should rehearse the skills much like actors rehearse parts in a play. If not, style suffers and style counts, especially when you're trying to improve interpersonal skills.

3. Space the learning.

Second, participants need time to practice the material at work and at home. Spaced training provides participants with a chance to test the material with real people in actual settings, tailor them to their own style, and hone them until they're a comfortable part of their normal routine.

If participants don't practice within a week, most of them fail the behavioral test in less than thirty days. Strangely enough, without continual practice, they also begin to score lower on the paper-and-pencil test. Without constant practice over the first few months, subjects eventually forget almost everything.

4. Aggressively follow up.

After participants have been given time to practice, each one must be held accountable at the beginning of the next session (usually held within seven to ten days). Did they practice? What happened? What worked? What didn't? What corrections must be made?

Without meaningful accountability and midcourse corrections, many participants will attend the training, like it, do little to change, maybe even do the wrong thing, and fall back into old habits.

5. Have leaders train.

This particular suggestion often rankles, or at least worries, people. Can leaders (often untrained in conducting formal training sessions) actually make the training fly?

To answer this question, we put trainer manuals in the hands of a professional trainer, a supervisor, and a trainer who had spent a one-year stint on the floor as a front-line leader. Then, over the next two months, each conducted a series of interpersonal skills training sessions. Before the training began, we measured the skills to be taught (assessed through a peer review). We then took the same measure after the training was completed, along with one several months later. We also asked participants to rate the quality of the training itself.

As everyone suspected, the professional trainer received the highest marks-when it came to the assessment of the training itself. And yes, the supervisor received the lowest marks. (They were still quite high. On a seven-point Likert scale, with seven being high, he received an average of five and a half.)

The more interesting question, of course, was: how successful were the trainers in bringing about change?

Since the supervisor not only trained the material but was also able to follow up with his team, reinforce healthy practice, and advise the participants between sessions, his group changed the most. The trainer's group changed the least (almost two points less on the seven-point scale). Frankly, the results are exactly as you would suspect.

Trainers generally train better.

Leaders are more capable of bringing about significant and lasting change.

Always? It's an empirical question. Try it and see.

We've suggested that supervisors conduct the training, but if set up poorly it could be a disaster. In order for supervisors to successfully conduct the training, the materials must be user friendly. Handing a leader some notes, a marker, and a flip chart is far too risky. Sure, there are leaders who are as comfortable in front of class as just about anyone, but you can't count on it. By the same token, providing a gaggle of materials that will take hours of preparation doesn't work either. Who has that kind of time?

To strike the correct balance, the authors of the Crucial Conversations have designed materials, tested them with actual leaders (often with front-line employees themselves), and refused to rest until the materials can be trained by just about anyone-without a lot of palm-sweating preparation.

With a train-the-trainer kickoff session (we provide the necessary materials for the session) and about an hour or so of prep per session, leaders do a fine job.

7. Train intact workgroups.

Once you've committed to having leaders conduct the training, should they train their own teams? Should you mix and match? What if you can't pull everyone off work at the same time?

This is an easy one to answer. There's no doubt that training yields the best results when intact teams can move through the training together. The concepts, values, and skills become part of the social environment. The theory becomes part of the shared vocabulary. The values become part of who they are and how they think- Team members encourage one another, serve as coaches, celebrate success, and work on improvements-as a team.


It almost sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? But it is true. Skill-based training sessions (one-hour sessions taught by actual leaders to their intact work teams) not only win, but they win twice. Here's how.


First, short sessions fit the demands of living, breathing people in organizations. Most teams can be pulled away from their work once a week-if it's only for an hour or so. And these sessions allow each team to focus on the basic skills it needs.

In addition, leaders already lead work-groups, why not have them conduct the training as well? This way you don't have to pay for outside trainers or juggle tough training schedules. Besides, who is better at following up than a person who already spends time with the participants? Best of all, professional trainers are now freed up to play more high-leverage roles of master trainer, coach, and consultant.


Second, as a change strategy, training actually works better when it is short, spaced, and followed up on by people in positions of authority.

This is one of those rare times when the needs of the organization and the needs of the training actually go hand in glove.

In short, with Single Point or leader-led lessons, you don't have to sacrifice the training design to make it fit the organization's demands. Better yet, you don't have to make the organization suffer in order to fit in the training.

What to Train

Step 1

Crucial Conversations™

A book by the same name by the same authors was released in June of 2002. It hit the NY Times best seller list in July of 2002. With a foreword by Stephen Covey, the book is based upon the concepts in this training program.

High Stakes . Opposing Opinions . Strong Emotions .

If you’re like most people, scarcely a day passes that you don’t face a crucial conversation. You know the type—stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. Perhaps you’re about to talk to a semi-hostile direct report about a performance problem. Gulp. Maybe you need to talk to your boss about purposely withholding valuable information from you. That should be a fun little chat. Maybe you’ve decided to sit down with your in-laws to discuss all of those unannounced and lengthy visits. Maybe not.

Anytime you’re stuck, there’s a crucial conversation keeping you there.

Unfortunately, if you’re like most of us, when it matters most you’re typically on your worst behavior. That’s because when it comes to crucial conversations, we’re designed exactly wrong. When our emotions kick in, we’re genetically programmed to fight or to take flight—not to skillfully hold complex human interactions.

As discussions heat up, our bodies dutifully (and without consulting our brains) pump out adrenaline. Soon our breathing picks up, our vision narrows, and our blood flows to our limbs and away from our brains. Great—at the very moment when we need to be on our best behavior, we’re operating with the same cognitive tools available to a rhesus monkey.

It’s little wonder that as we’re walking away from a heated discussion we often mumble to ourselves: “What was I thinking?” You know what we’re talking about. Your spouse isn’t affectionate enough so you try your best influence strategy: you give him or her the cold shoulder. That should really help. A coworker subtly harasses you and you scorch him with a tubful of scathing sarcasm. Now there’s a tool that’ll get you that next promotion.

Learn how to master crucial conversations, and your whole life changes.

But all this can change. Twenty-five years of research with over 20,000 people has taught us how to turn crucial conversations into experiences that produce strong results and build relationships. By studying people who know what to say, when to say it, and how to deliver the words in a way that actually gets heard without creating defensiveness—we now know exactly.

Dialogue Smart people are people who have mastered the skills of Crucial Conversations. See how and why Crucial Conversations™ can improve your organizational vitality, quality, productivity and your bottom line. Descriptions, case studies, Industry Leaders" comments.

This program contains Expert Video (the authors delivering the cognitive content) and an overview of program on either a CD or audio tape for review, both conducted by one or more of the authors.

What Crucial Conversations Teaches - Seven Principles:

Start with Heart: How to Work on Me First, Us Second.

  • Dialogue requires first a change of heart, and second a change of behavior.
  • How to catch motives that move you from dialogue toward silence or violence.
  • How to spot the thoughts that sap your desire to get to dialogue.

Learn to Look: How to See When Safety Is At Risk.

  • If you learn to look at safety, you can fix what goes wrong in almost any conversation.
  • What happens to our ability to spot problems during Crucial Conversations?
  • Three skills that help you catch safety problems before they destroy dialogue.

Make it Safe: How to Increase Candor While Decreasing Defensiveness.

  • The Key to Candor—If you step out of a conversation and build enough safety, you can talk about anything.
  • Mutual Purpose—it isn’t what you say but why others think you’re saying it that drives others to silence or vviolence.
  • Mutual Respect—it isn’t what you say but what others think you mean that damages dialogue.
  • Three safety-building skills for increasing candor while decreasing hostility and defensiveness.

Master My Stories: How to Manage Emotions that Destroy Dialogue.

  • Act on your emotions or you’ll become a victim of them.
  • How to get to the root of emotions that are driving you to silence or violence.
  • How to spot the three “clever stories” that makes us feel good about doing bad while simultaneously undermining our own results.
  • How to create emotions that take us to dialogue.

STATE My Path: How to Speak Persuasively, Not Abrasively.

  • The Delicate Balance—the heart of sharing risky meaning is balancing confidence and humility.
  • How to share volatile, controversial, and sensitive opinions while minimizing defensiveness.

Explore Others’ Paths: How to Power Up Your Listening.

  • The heart of exploring other’s risky views involves curiosity, respect and patience.
  • How to make it safe for others to share anything.
  • How to make it safe for you to hear anything.

Move to Action: How to Make Decisions and Improve Accountability.

  • How you end a conversation leads to either results or upsets.
  • How to avoid the agony of over-involvement and the insult of under-involvement.
  • How to avoid déjà vu dialogues—lots of talk, no action, talk again.

Then, there's more:

  • How to use DialogueSmarts™ in the toughest of circumstances.
  • How do you say things that could really insult others?
  • How do you deal with a conversation that never ends?
  • What special issues do you face in Crucial Conversations with loved ones?
  • How do you give tough feedback to a boss?
  • How do you deal with an incompetent peer?
Case Studies

A Manufacturing Firm Goes for Six Sigma

A large manufacturing firm was working hard to implement Six Sigma processes and tools in their organization. International competition was forcing them to make dramatic improvements in quality and productivity just to stay alive. Leaders’ vision was not just survival, but to build a vital, nimble, competitive organization for the future.

Over an 18-month period of time, teams that used both Six Sigma and DialogueSmarts™ skills made 10% or greater improvements in quality, rework and productivity. Those who used only Six Sigma processes and tools made no measurable improvement.

The two Crucial Conversations that were key to making continuous improvement and Six Sigma a part of the culture were:

  • Team members’ speaking candidly with their direct supervisor about their concerns and ideas.
  • Supervisors speaking candidly up the management hierarchy about their concerns and ideas.

The bottom line: When these two Crucial Conversations improved, everything improved. When these conversations did not improve, improvement stalled.

Quotes from Industry Leaders

DialogueSmarts is one of the most powerful and useful tools I have found. Chronic communication errors are at the root of so many problems in daily life. I have seen breakthroughs with people with whom all other efforts have failed." Michael Miller, Director, AT&T.

"The skills learned in DialogueSmarts have produced immediate and impactful results in the overall working relationships at all levels in our organization." Russ Ford, Vice President Operations, Lockheed Martin.

"DialogueSmarts has been extremely popular, and by every measure successful. In addition to rich anecdotal evidence, we have measured significant improvement in twenty-two categories covered in our annual employee opinion survey…at a price that's affordable."
Steve Terry, Director, Intermountain Health Care University.


Leaders' Materials (Leaders' Guide, video examples, expert video, cards): $650 USD.

Participant Material ( including all lessons, cards and the new Crucial Conversations book just published by McGraw-Hill for desk reference. $150 USD.

Contact us for more information by calling us at (866) 230-3131 or by filling out the form below. We will get back to you as quickly as possible.

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  For More Information Call (866) 230-3131 • International (325) 692-1936
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