The Book Corner - Review

Authentic Conversations by Jamie Showkeir and Maren Showkeir

Authentic Conversations: Moving from Manipulation to Truth and Commitment

By Jamie Showkeir and Maren Showkeir
Berrett-Koehler, 2008

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3 stars: Valuable information and a good readThe first half of Authentic Conversations analyzes problems caused by the conventional ways people view one another in the workplace. It examines the ways in which we talk with one another and how they profoundly inhibit an organization’s efforts to compete in a demanding global arena that values flexibility, innovation, and diversity. Of course, employees will be dissatisfied, disappointed, and discouraged, at times, and disgruntled employees may become cynical. This book helps managers to identify problems accurately and reframe them, in order to resolve them effectively.

For example, too often, parent-child dynamics in the workplace significantly inhibit growth and erode commitment. Accountability, motivation, and innovation suffer when leaders treat employees as children who need caretaking and protecting. The authors illustrate how traditional conversations stymie growth and erode commitment, and how the seemingly simple act of engaging in authentic conversations can serve as the primary means for changing an organization’s culture from parent-child to adult-adult. Personal accountability for adult behavior is the foundation for creating authentic conversations that respect and engage in order to increase the likelihood that all will participate and benefit.

In the second half of the book, the authors introduce new perspectives and concrete ways to change a culture and address inefficiencies through authentic conversation. Real business examples and model solutions highlight the importance of language, the negative impact of subtle manipulation, and how intentions motivate our actions.

Throughout this book, we are encouraged to commit to hope and optimism, to choose how we respond to disappointing circumstances. We learn techniques for replacing manipulation with authentic self-disclosure of intentions. We learn the difference between commitment and compliance, and the consequences of each. We examine the attitudes and perspectives of cynics, and we learn how to disarm them with their victim stance. We understand the power of transparent management through the disclosure of information in service of collaboration and joint problem solving and the provision of a safe environment for addressing doubts, promises, and consequences. A simple model provides skills for recognizing and dealing with resistance effectively.

The Showkeirs invite participants to commit to telling the truth, to relinquish the illusion of control, to accept personal responsibility for their choices and the consequences thereof. They illuminate the power of authentic conversations, and they help others harness the power and synergy of effective collaboration. Several templates provide guidance for negotiating new territory, such as facing difficult issues, seeking an exception, proposing change, introducing a mandate, renegotiating a relationship, initiating endings, dealing with individual performance, and creating your own authentic conversations.

Authentic Conversations can help you revitalize relationships, one person at a time. This book lays the groundwork for the transformation of a stagnant organization into a dynamic enterprise, through a conversational revolution. Its clear and straightforward presentation provides an excellent blueprint for changing the culture of an entire organization’s or just a single relationship.

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