The Four Conversations: Daily Communication that Gets Results

by Jeffrey Ford and Laurie Ford. Published by Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA, 2009.

Awarded Best Book in Management for 2009 by 800 CEO READ

Rated #5 Best Business Book of 2009 by The Toronto Globe and Mail

Accomplishing your goals takes more than passion, vision, and commitment: it takes talking.  But not just “more talking”. To be successful, your talking must go beyond the rules of well-mannered communication skills. Getting more of what you want and less of what you don’t want—in work and in life—depends on how well you use four different types of conversations.

  • Initiative Conversations: Whenever you propose something new or different – introduce a new goal, propose an idea, or launch some kind of change – you are initiating something. Effective Initiative Conversations will tell people what you want to accomplish, when you want to accomplish it, and why it matters.
  • Understanding Conversations: There are times you want people to understand something, and to see the meaning of an idea, instruction, or goal. To have people connect a new idea to their current job, or engage in working toward a new goal, you need to have an effective Understanding Conversation. These will be 2-way exchanges with explanations, questions, and discussion about how things will be done, who will do them, and where the resources and results will be.
  • Performance Conversations: If you want people to take an action or produce a result, you want to master Performance Conversations. These are the conversations that include specific requests and promises to clarify whatever actions, results, and other requirements (such as timing, quality, etc.) you expect someone to deliver. Performance Conversations are specifically designed to get people into action, and they provide the foundation for building accountability.
  • Closure Conversations: Any time you report on the status of a project, follow-up on a request or promise, or tell people that a job is complete, you are having a Closure Conversation. These are the conversations that complete the past by closing out some piece of business, and they build credibility, accountability, and good relationships.

You use one or more of the four conversations every time you communicate! You can be more successful and effective, at work and in life, by improving your skills with each type of conversation. You can bring more trust, productivity, and accountability into your workplace, for more satisfying relationships and better teamwork. Use this practical guide to learn more about the four conversations, and you can turn your communication challenges into accomplishments.


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