Continuing the theme of last month's interview with Tim Brown, I have once again re-visited my shelf of inspirational leadership books. This month, Halley Bock, President and CEO of Fierce, Inc., the company behind the best-selling book Fierce Conversations, Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time, has agreed to share some of the insights included in the book.
After reviewing Fierce Conversations in a recent blog post, it became very apparent that this book is relevant not only to those at CEO level, but to anyone who has ever felt that there is no room for emotion in the dog-eat-dog business world. As our company is built on the notion of being refreshingly direct, I was keen to talk to the people behind the book that has inspired businesses around the globe, and my business in particular.
Although the art of honest conversation might not seem like such a difficult concept, many leaders struggle to encourage and embrace them. Fortunately, Bock and her team extol the virtues of making 'fierce conversations' not only a way of conducting business, but a way of life. The core message of the book is to use exchanges to bring about change through confrontation, overcoming fear or encouragement of opinion - ultimately making conversations count. Bock tells us how these concepts can come to life.
How have you been involved with the book, Fierce Conversations, and how has it shaped your business today?
Fierce Inc. is a global leadership development and training company that drives results by improving workplace communication. Many of our training curriculums are based upon the techniques, methodologies, and philosophies explored in both Fierce Leadership and Fierce Conversations.
What is the fundamental premise of the book from your perspective?
The fundamental idea of Fierce Conversations is that there is enormous power in conversations. Everything we do - our work, our relationships, and in fact, our very lives - succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time.
How do you encourage people to have fierce conversations in business or in their private life? What holds them back, and what ultimately helps them to overcome these challenges?
By challenging them to come out from behind themselves and interrogate reality. People often shy away from asking uncomfortable questions, because they fear what the answers may be. This procrastination in confronting crucial issues only amplifies the core problem, leading to further complications.
What was the overall reaction to the book?
The reaction to both books has been very positive to this day. We still get letters from organisational leaders, business managers, schoolteachers, and others, sharing their personal stories on how the books have helped them change course and become more effective team members and team builders.
What makes the Fierce Conversation approach to business/leadership different?
The Fierce approach has a positive, transformative effect with some very distinct features. Unlike traditional top-down business and management structures, where leaders resemble dictators, directing, telling, and imposing their views on organisations, the Fierce approach is radically different. Employees are invited to participate in decision-making, and their contributions are encouraged and sought after. This makes for a more transparent workplace, highly engaged workers, and richer relationships among co-workers that improve productivity and performance.
What makes the Fierce Conversation approach to business/leadership sustainable?
Primarily because it does not require costly outside resources, it utilises resources that organisations always have in their possession - the talent within their workforce.
What other leadership books would you recommend?
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, which offers an astounding peek into what really makes great leaders tick. Blue Ocean Strategy by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim, a game-changing look at what it means to compete and win. And Good to Great by Jim Collins, which turns traditional thinking about "what makes an organisation great" on its ear, supported by irrefutable research.
What predictions do you have for the future with respect to leadership in business? What will success look like?
I think great leaders of the future will be facing the same problems that our current leaders face. Driving business results while simultaneously establishing a healthy work/life balance for their teams.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming business leaders?
New leaders are entering a work environment that can often be impersonal, with employees working remotely, primarily communicating electronically, and rarely meeting with co-workers. A leader's ability to connect can be seriously compromised. Constant, dedicated development of interpersonal skills, such as soliciting other's perspectives, building teams, and actively listening is crucial in the modern working world.