Crucial Conversations

I believe, in general, that it is important to avoid reacting to situations. Of course, that is easier said than done. Many of us have been in situations where we have reacted – confrontations with coworkers, stress, familial issues, etc. It’s easy to look back on these moments and recognize where the reaction went wrong and what should have been done or said instead, but in the moment, our emotions and anxiety cause us to react differently than we should. As a leader who is enacting change, we must be able to maintain composure and act as self-differentiated leaders.  Edwin Friedman’s theory of differentiated leadership suggests that effective leadership is not so much about having the correct traits or skills, rather it is an emotional process of regulating your own anxiety.

With this in mind, I recognized how important conversations in general are, but more specifically, how important conversations will be in order for the implementation of ePortfolios to be successful. Emotional triangles can negatively impact my plan because it is tempting to gossip and resist new ideas and change. If I can become self-differentiated I will be able to fight these temptations in order to keep things on track. Now with that said, sabotage, in this case, is actually a good sign. If colleagues are trying to fight back, then that means the plan is working. Communicating effectively to my colleagues and administrators as well as maintaining a level head will help me to approach crucial conversations. 

Although I value the information on becoming a self-differentiated leader, I have chosen to focus on crucial conversations first. These two are obviously related, but I don’t think I can even begin before thinking about how to have those conversations. In order to implement ePortfolios within my department, there are key factors that will need to be addressed in order to have crucial conversations. 

The first key factor deals with my colleague’s perception of ePortfolios. No matter how well I may share information about ePortfolios (i.e. what they are, why they are important, how they can be used), there is bound to be some colleagues who are resistant to this idea for a variety of reasons. Whether their resistance is because of little experience with technology or any other reason, I will need to have these conversations to make my colleagues feel like they are involved in the process, they are valued, and them and their ideas are respected. Having conversations with my colleagues will allow me to gather input, process the information I receive, and allow me to explore my thoughts and emotions to ensure that my motives are pure for the use of ePortfolios. 

Next, I will look for when conversations become crucial. If these conversations are not identified as crucial, they can easily be mishandled and problems cannot be solved. These crucial conversations can happen with a variety of people with different personalities and for these reasons, it is crucial to make the conversation safe. One way to do this is to establish mutual respect and purpose. Establishing mutual purpose in this scenario will happen by ensuring we focus on the students and their learning. Also, establishing mutual respect is important so that everyone involved in the crucial conversation feels that their thoughts, feelings, and opinions are respected and important.

From here, it will be important for me that I share my path and story when it comes to how ePortfolios have affected me. Also, sharing why and how I feel ePortfolios will have a significant impact for our students post-secondary transition plans will be just as important. Asking my colleagues to share about their paths and being open to their views and feedback will allow for dialogue to occur among us, which will lead to our students receiving the maximum benefits of ePortfolios.

In order to conclude a crucial conversation, there will need to be action taken to handle any issues or concerns that were presented and discussed. If there is no follow up, then it’s possible that someone could be upset or dissatisfied. We know that crucial conversations involve healthy dialogue, but the end of conversations can be difficult to maneuver because they require conclusions and decisions to be made. I believe I will need to have a strategy before going into these conversations since it is possible that they could get out of control quickly because any time emotions, high stakes, and opinions are involved there is that potential.This will be one of the many skills necessary to implement crucial conversations, however, mastering these skills and implementing this methodology will go a long way in the successful use of ePortfolios. I feel like the 8 step process (get unstuck, start with the heart, learn to look, make it safe, master my stories, state my path, explore other paths, and move to action) will help with these conversations and all other ones because it does all of these things. 



Bardwell, M.D. (2010, November 10). Friedman’s theory of differentiated leadership made simple [Video file]. Retrieved from

Callibrain. (2015, August 20). Video review for crucial conversations by Kerry Patterson [Video file]. Retrieved from

Vital Smarts India. (2012, February 10). Crucial conversations explained in 2 minutes [Video file]. Retrieved from