Safe Place for Dangerous TruthsPublished by () Download the first chapter
“Finally an organizational communication breakthrough for the info-millenium…a practical and flexible approach to achieve ‘real’ trust at the very foundation of our organizations. Simmons’ methods transcend typical teamwork platitudes with an actual step-by-step model for unleashing powerful honest dialogue resulting in creative solutions.”
David Finch, President/CEO, ATCOM Business Telephone Systems
“In this book, Annette Simmons deals with the “how-to” of dialogue (e.g. how many people, how often, how to get started) but the real contribution of this book is her own voice that rings through with stories and metaphors that help us see the significance of dialogue for our work lives.”
Nancy M. Dixon, Associate Professor of Administrative Sciences, The George Washington University
“I have been a fan of Annette Simmons for some time now. I have had the privilege of experiencing her dialogue process, and felt it’s power and efficacy both personally and within my organization. She is a rare and gifted teacher who both lives and practices what she writes about. Her new book is powerful, lucid, and engaging. She offers to all who have the courage to follow her writing a process which indeed creates a safe place for truth telling, as well as more elegant and graceful ways of living and learning.”
Robert (Dusty) Staub, CEP Staub-Peterson, Inc. Author of The Heart of Leadership and The Seven Acts of Courage
In one recent survey, 93% of people admitted to lying regularly at work. Maybe they are scared of losing their jobs. Maybe they don’t trust their colleagues or don’t want to “rock the boat.” As Simmons says, “When people in a group improve their ability to talk to each other they spontaneously improve their ability to work together. When they learn how to discuss the undiscussable they learn how to solve the unsolvable.”
Since most of us have gotten into trouble for telling the truth at one time or another “we too quickly conclude that telling the truth is a bad idea. We decide to stay beneath the radar and either end up bitter and resentful unexpectedly explode and cause a scene. We need a third alternative.”
A Safe Place for Dangerous Truth: Using Dialogue to Overcome Fear and Distrust describes an alternative where a workgroup takes time out on a regular basis to:
a.) slow things down and temporarily tolerate the frustration of listening to people “who don’t know what they are talking about”
b.) suspend the norm of “let someone else say it” long enough so that someone names the problem(s)
Annette points out that in this world where “being busy is such a status symbol,” we must carve out a time for refection and dialogue. “People looking for the ‘right time’ to discuss a dangerous truth never find it because the workplace never slows down enough for people to calmly deal with dangerous truths.” This book describes an alternative that routinely introduces ‘thinking time’ back into the workplace.
A few reviews from Amazon:
“Dialogue is a difficult and potentially fear inducing process. The author admits all that and gives the reader the background and a process to facilitate and engage in dialogue. The book is easy-to-read, free of unnecessarily confusing jargon, and full of good illustrative anecedotes. The author recommends some unorthodox facilitative roles based on her experience (some of which I had thought of before I read the book, but was afraid to try out). I found myself jumping from section to section to follow my interest—this was not a linear ead for me. The appendix on how to get dialogue started with a group is also helpful.”
“This is an excellent “how to” book, that deals with a nebulous subject, dialogue. It not only endorses and explains the need for dialogue, but goes way beyond helping middle management and leadership understand the important steps that must be taken if an organization is going to really attempt to change the culture and create a new atmosphere in which dialogue just might happen!”
“Okay, on three, everyone take two steps to the right.”
“If they can’t tell us apart, no one gets in trouble.” If you’re afraid to stand alone, you’ll never stand out. A cohesive team can move quickly, but a scared team isn’t going anywhere fast.
“Concrete wall.. Dam.”
Ahhh, the frustration of working in large organizations. If you don’t have a sense of humor you’re miserable and chances are you just make everyone else miserable.
“What do you mean I’m not approachable? I AM smiling.”
Your face tells employees a story. They wonder do I tell the truth? Or do I let some other sucker do it…later?
“Have I ever told you the one about the time I grew back from just one arm?”
There are some stories that get old. Yes, they were amazing the first time we heard them. Fifteen years later, not so much.
“Personal space? What do you mean I’m in your personal space?”
Revisiting the original vision story can soothe petty frustrations brought on my late hours, too much caffeine and purported refrigerator thefts.
“So I know I’m the new guy, but I have some really great ideas. Seriously, they are great ideas!”
Enthusiasm is often viewed as naivete’. Slow down! Tell a story that builds your credibility. Let your ideas reveal themselves to your listeners.
“What I could teach you, my dear. Come closer and sit awhile.”
Wasps match some human behaviors: dominance, deceipt, and opportunism. All queens start alone, and manage the hive as a hierarchy. Everyone has a story, don’t be afraid to ask.
“Call in the sharks. That new fish is getting on my nerves.”
People (and fish apparently) will “kill the messenger.” Wrap the truth in story and avoid the sharks.
Most. Boring. Powerpoint. Ever.
No one will ever complain if you replace a powerpoint slide with a good story.
“Here are the chocolate candy samples. Maybe a lighter brown?”
Not flattering, but we remember “ick” details. Disgust is one of the original emotions. Just don’t overdo it.
“When they talked about transferring us I really expected we’d have a desk and everything.”
If you want to improve morale it takes more than telling a new story. The story needs to be true.
“HQ promoted me to be team leader. Correct me if I’m wrong…but do you see a team here?”
Before you get mad, consider explaining your frustration with a story to put your listener in your chair and see what you see.
Please just look at the new budget. Pretty please?
Some stories last a day. If you asked for too much money, you could plaster this little guy’s face all over the office. Do your own campaign on frugality. Wear old clothes. Tell a story.
“Fine. I’ll go to your two day retreat. But I’m not hugging anybody!”
Story feels too touchy-feely for some. Don’t force it. They might cry and get snot on your shoulder.
You want me to what? I don’t know any stories!
Most everyone says this when you ask them to tell a story. Keep prompting, what happened when…? Last big crisis…?
“I’ve heard it all before, you little monkey. Try again.”
New. Original. Unique. Products? Yes. Human needs? Nope. You can still use old stories to understand human needs.
“We didn’t have any problems until you arrived. A little sand in our faces, but no problems.”
Big stories rewrite reality. Welcome fear, it means people care.
WILL YOU PLEASE SHUT UP?
Keep yelling…or ask to hear the story behind that constant suggestion? Listen it out of them and they will see the error in their thinking or you learn something.
“Hey, you can implement any policy you like….it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
There are ten territorial games people can play to block implementation. All are driven by the story they tell themselves.
“I’m your new boss. Allow me to demonstrate the parade rest I expect when I enter the room.”
Military style management can alienate staff and kill creativity. Obedience is the lowest form of cooperation.
“One more bite and we won’t ask again….promise”
Some people are never happy no matter how much you give them. The trick is to teach them to fly and find answers by themselves.
“Tony, give up already. If they really wanted us to fly…they would have given us wings that work.”
Doing more with less makes sense as long as you give staff the tools they need. Give your staff the tools of self awareness, storytelling, and dialogue.
“Having a positive attitude won’t make you more successful…but it will irritate your enemies enough to make it worthwhile.”
Sometimes the most valuable thing a group can do is lighten up a little. Creativity is more accessible when people are relaxed and having fun.
“Statistics say one in every four people suffer from mental illness. Look around. If the three people closest to you seem okay, it’s you.”
Sometimes a work group needs some good ol’ fashioned therapy. Telling the truth, hearing the truth, venting emotion. Afterwards everyone is exhausted, incredibly relieved that it’s over, and ready to get back to work.
“The entire team had our hair done just like the boss’s. It’s your turn.”
There is more than one right way to accomplish goals. Diversity isn’t just driven from the top down. All staff play a part in rewarding diversity.