Something for the leaders was the theme of the second day at the DIA Med Comms conference. There were parallel breakout sessions running through the day for people new to med comms, including topics on literature searching, promotional review, collaborations between head office and field based medical information staff etc. But for me, today’s sessions on Crucial conversations, the informal organisation and Six Sigma were the main reason I came out to Florida.

I was not disappointed! In fact, I was one delighted customer.

Kevin Brown, Management Development Senior Director, Wyeth started off by giving a compelling performance when he revealed how we can gather our courage and develop skills and insights to make effective crucial conversations. It was a précis of the workshop on Crucial Conversations (based on best selling book by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler – check out the e-book on Google).

So what is a crucial conversation? In essence, it’s one that we all avoid! It’s a conversation where there is a lot at stake, emotions are bound to run high and you just know that you’re going to disagree on the issues at stake.

“The measure of success is not whether or not you have tough problems to deal with now but whether it’s the same problem that you had last year” John Foster Dulles.

I’m sure we all have been in those situations where we should have had a conversation with a colleague, team member or someone in your family, but we just chickened out, often with long lasting consequences. You are not alone. Over 93% of us put off crucial conversations at work that affect our quality of life.

Maybe a colleague has a personal hygiene problem – who’s going to tell them? It’s you, the manager. You probably have to give your boss personal feedback – how do you go about that? Got a hormonal teenager and need to avoid all interactions becoming a battle? Where do you start?

We all know we should “bite the bullet” and have that dialogue but feel ill-equipped to do it well. Or maybe we’ve waded in and the whole situation has gone from bad to worse (e.g. silence or violence!). Using 7 guiding principles, you can break your behavioural patterns to develop trust and feel you can talk about anything, no holds barred.

What do you have to gain? Successful dialogues will help you drive up productivity, can eliminate costly or fatal mistakes (think medication errors!) and improve your own & your teams job satisfaction.

I can’t begin to encapsulate the process, questions and skills you will use. All I can do is encourage you to check the website ( and seriously consider reading the book. I’ve picked it up in bookshops twice now, then put it back as one of “those” self-help books, but now realise it is worth the investment. There were lots of resonances for me – especially how you can stop your feelings and misinterpretation of events from sabotaging your thinking.