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Handling Difficult Conversations in the Dual Career Context. Melissa Dorfman Director , Dual Career Services, University of Michigan Medical School & College of Engineering June 4, 2012. Agenda. What makes conversations difficult? Generally In the dual career context

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handling difficult conversations in the dual career context

Handling Difficult Conversations in the Dual Career Context

Melissa Dorfman

Director, Dual Career Services, University of Michigan Medical School & College of Engineering

June 4, 2012

agenda
Agenda
  • What makes conversations difficult?
    • Generally
    • In the dual career context
  • Structures and processes to reduce difficult conversations
  • Tools and methods for more successful conversations
conversations are difficult when
Conversations are difficult when…
  • …they involve content that is contentious
  • …they make any of those involved feel vulnerable or put self esteem at risk
  • …we care deeply about what is being discussed or the people with whom we are discussing it
  • …they involve issues that are important or have uncertain outcomes
  • …we fear the outcomes of the conversation

Source: Stone, D. , Patton, B. and Heen, S., (2010), Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (New York, NY: Penguin).

complexity dual career in the middle
Complexity: Dual Career in the Middle
  • Partner
  • Unit Hiring the Partner
  • Recruiting Chair
  • Dual Career Function
  • Concerned Faculty Members
  • Area Leaders

University / College Leadership

  • Recruiting Dean
  • Faculty Recruit
multiple sources of information about dual career situations
Multiple Sources of Information About Dual Career Situations
  • External Sources
  • Stories (direct and indirect) about other dual career situations from colleagues and personal contacts
  • Information from chairs, search committee chairs, faculty, administrators involved in recruitment / retention
  • Internal to the Couple
  • Assumptions and beliefs
  • Experiences from other institutions
  • Different information shared with each partner
range of contexts potential views of the dual career function
Range of Contexts: Potential Views of the Dual Career Function
  • Distraction
  • Great Unknown
  • Do It Myself
  • Key Tool
part of the job dual career as a communicator of decisions information
Part of the Job: Dual Career as a Communicator of Decisions / Information
  • Contrary to expectations
  • Do not meet unspoken assumptions
  • Are surprising and for which the recipient is not prepared
  • Ultimately have undesired implications
    • For recruitment or retention
    • For faculty life choices
    • For budgets
setting expectations with key internal constituents about the dual career process and numbers
Setting Expectations with Key Internal Constituents About the Dual Career Process and Numbers
  • Routinely update Associate Deans, department chairs, search committee chairs or other relevant administrators
  • Plan an annual meeting or report to share data on the past year’s recruiting process Use data to highlight key points and trends, e.g.,
      • Number of dual career couples helped
      • Percent of recruits requiring dual career help
      • Time to hire
  • Share best practices for working together to recruit or retain dual career couples
  • Get the word out early that dual career help is available
  • Communicate early and often to Director
    • Your help in identifying and reaching out to potential contacts is helpful, but communicating the content of these discussions to the Director is critical
    • Keeping the Director up to date about your search committee decisions and key time lines is critical to ensuring that we are coordinated in our efforts
  • Respond to questions from the Director or Associate Dean in a timely way
  • If you are hiring someone who will be a cross-departmental or cross-school hire, figure out who is on point and ensure all communications are coordinated
broadening the communications process to involve key constituents
Broadening the Communications Process to Involve Key Constituents

Direct communications, catalogued as sent e-mail or notes

Dual Career Professional

Partner

1

Blind copy key constituents on important communications

Recruiting Chair, Dean, Search Committee Chair

2

Make key constituents aware of important developments and ask for guidance on communication before sharing with the partner

3

Share timeline / data on dual career process with constituents to set expectations

identifying a broker to assist in facilitating progress in dual career situations
Identifying a Broker to Assist in Facilitating Progress in Dual Career Situations
  • Senior academic administrator with respect of chairs and search committees
  • Knowledgeable about:
    • Dual career and university processes
    • Organizational priorities
  • Skilled at interpersonal interactions
  • Accessible
  • Can get more senior administrators involved if necessary
taking the direct approach to difficult content
Taking the Direct Approach to Difficult Content
  • Set a common agenda for the conversation and then ask the other person if s/he has things to be discussed in addition to what you’ve proposed
    • Agree on an order for the topics of your conversation
  • For each topic, start with the content that matters most
    • Avoid “easing in” to make it easier on the other person
      • Delivering bad news: directly share the information, followed by the data and interpretations that support conclusions
      • Making requests: avoid making a demand. Instead, invite conversation about whether what you want is appropriate. “I wonder if it would make sense…”
  • Name difficult dynamics either in the conversation or the dual career process to make them discussable

Source: Chris Argyris & Action Design; Stone et . al.

the ladder of inference
The Ladder of Inference

I Reach Conclusions

Assumptions Influence What I Select

I Interpret the Data

I Select Some Data

Pool of Data

Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.

telling your story clearly with room for conversation
Telling Your Story Clearly, With Room for Conversation
  • Present your conclusions as your (or others’) perspective, rather than “the truth”
    • Goal to distinguish fact from opinion
  • Share the source of the conclusions
    • Both data and assumptions
      • May be difficult in the dual career arena if you are delivering indirect news or conclusions
  • Stop periodically to ask for reactions and questions

Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.

three skills for active listening
Three Skills for Active Listening
  • Inquire to learn
    • Open ended questions – “Help me understand better…”
    • Ask for more data – “Say more about…”
  • Avoid leading questions that are really disguised statements

Inquiry

Paraphrasing

  • Check your understanding
    • “What I hear you saying is…”
    • “Just to make sure I’m follow, is what you’re saying…”
  • Take time to acknowledge the other person’s feelings, even if they are not explicitly introduced into the conversation
    • “This is likely frustrating / difficult to hear”
    • “It sounds like you are really upset by this”
  • Acknowledge before jumping to problem solving

Acknowledge-ment

Source: Stone et . al.

two way conversation checklist
Two-Way Conversation Checklist

When beginning the conversation…

  • Create a mutual agenda
    • Explain your intentions and purposes
    • Ask for theirs

When exchanging your perspectives…

Sharing Your View

  • Explain your view
    • Conclusions
    • Reasoning
    • Examples
  • Ask the other person
    • How are they reacting to your view?
    • What is their view,independent of your view?

Understanding Their View

  • Listen for understanding
    • Ask for examples
    • Paraphrase and askto check for understanding
    • If reasoning or date is unclear, ask
  • Deepen your understanding andothers’ understanding if you see things differently
    • Explain your view and give examples
    • Ask what you might be missing

When finishing your conversation…

  • State any lingering concerns you may have
  • Agree on concrete next steps you each can take

Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.

types of difficult conversations in the dual career context
Types of Difficult Conversations in the Dual Career Context
  • Delivering bad news
    • Partner did not get a job
    • Partner will not be considered by a unit or company
    • Hiring unit has negative feedback to share about the partner
  • Debunking assumptions
  • Identifying problematic dynamics or behavior in the job search process
  • Asking for contribution or compromise that is undesirable
learning pathways
Learning Pathways

Context

Framing

Actions

Results

React

Reframe

  • When having a conversation, consider:
  • The constraints, resources and factors that create context – what influences the conversation
  • The way you are framing the conversation – what you are thinking at each of the levels of the conversation (what happened / should happen, feelings, identity)
  • The way you are acting – what you say and do
  • The results you get – whether or not you reach the desired outcome

Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.

one way vs two way feedback
One Way vs. Two Way Feedback

Framing

Actions

Impose my purposes on the other or assume our purposes are similar

State my view, but not how I arrived at it or make disclaimers to soften the blow

Do not ask the other their views or instead, ask leading questions

One Way

  • Someone is to blame (you or me) for an unwanted outcome
  • Giving negative feedback can be upsetting and that is bad
  • I have to be certain of the truth before I give feedback
  • My options are to deliver the truth or withdraw
  • Both may have contributed to a negative outcome in ways we cannot see
  • Negative feedback can be upsetting and that’s okay, as long as we both remain open to learning
  • It’s okay to have a strong point of view
  • My task is to develop a shared understanding of what happened and where to go from here
  • Check my purposes with the other and ask about their purposes
  • Explain my view, how I arrived at it with conclusions, reasoning and examples
  • Ask the other for their reaction to my view and for their view
  • Ask what I contributed to the situation
  • Ask how I can help and suggest what the other might do differently

Two Way

Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.

blind spots
Blind Spots

What I Can See

What I Cannot See

How I do what I do

What effect I have on you

What you’re up against

What you’re trying to do

  • What I am up against
  • What I am trying to do
  • How you do what you do
  • What effect you have on me

Source: Proprietary intellectual property of Monitor Group. Chris Argyris, Partner of Monitor Group.