Crucial conversations, or giving feedback that works


March 31, 2021


In one of our previous articles, we talked about how we introduced Continuous Feedback at our company.

Part of that is creating a culture where difficult conversations aren’t so hard. Without being willing to give and receive honest feedback, we cannot grow as leaders or help others do the same.

That’s why we recently organized a 2-day training in Crucial Conversations. The training was attended by a number of Itineris employees – from different seniority levels.

We talked to 2 of them: Margot Behaeghe, Functional Consultant, and Peter Baeke, R&D Manager at Itineris.

Hi Margot and Peter. Can you tell us a bit more about the set-up of the training?

Margot Behaeghe, Functional Consultant, Itineris

Margot: Yes, of course! The main objective of this 2-day training was to show the importance of having crucial conversations and to provide tips and tricks on how to deal with them.

The theory was interspersed with practice: videos were used to show how to react and how not to react in a certain situation, making everything very concrete. We also worked in groups of two, each time facing a personal or work-related situation, where we learned how to start a crucial conversation in a structured way. Last but not least, we engaged in role-playing. That helped a lot to get started with the theory.

Peter: Besides that, we also received a lot of training material and memory cards to take home, which I will definitely look at again. You could also see that our trainer – Maarten Joye, who is Chief People Officer at Itineris – masters the topic very well because he applies it himself. I believe that was a great added value too.

What were the most important takeaways from the training for you personally?

Peter Baeke, R&D Manager, Itineris

Peter: Apart from the importance of asking the right questions at the right time, I took something extra with me from this training. In general, I am someone who wants to get things moving forward. That is why I usually tend to start a conversation with a clear goal in mind, and I want to have that goal achieved by the end of the conversation. I now realize this mindset is not the best approach. Instead, it is important to start with a change in heart, admitting you are the person you should be trying to improve: by understanding the person in front of you better and by trying to find a mutual purpose or common goals that will ultimately benefit both sides. I also learned how to stay in dialogue when the person you are talking to is angry, scared, or hurt.

Margot: Thanks to this training, I will now better recognize situations where it may be necessary to start a crucial conversation. I also gained insight into how I can engage in such a conversation, and the importance of separating facts from stories. We often make up our own stories – based on what we have heard from others – but that does not necessarily correspond to reality. In crucial conversations, it is very important to stick to the facts.

Is there something you will do differently after this training?

Margot: Yes, I will for sure! I have found that I often avoid difficult conversations. If there is something on my mind, I am now more likely to seize that moment and talk about it. With the tips & tricks that were provided, I now feel comfortable starting such a conversation.

Peter: From now on, I’ll certainly take more time for crucial conversations. I’ll empathize more with the person I am having the conversation with, and try to better understand how he or she feels about it, instead of convincing him or her of my point of view. Even though I already have several years on the counter as a Team Lead: I really got a lot out of this training!

Thanks for sharing your insights Peter & Margot!

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