Fierce Conversations Training: Real Play, Not Role Play

A bestselling book is helping to transform the way in which the Diocese of Chicago does business, and you can learn how to make use of it in your congregation during a two-day workshop at St. Michael’s in Barrington, on Friday, September 30 (12:30 pm to 8 pm) and Saturday, October 1 (9 am to 4 pm).

The book is Fierce Conversations, and congregational teams and interested individuals are encouraged to attend the workshop, which will be conducted by the leadership-consulting firm Fierce, Inc.

“Too often in the church, we try to be nice rather than direct,” says Jim Steen, the diocese’s associate for congregations and administration. “Some of our most vital congregations have found this approach transformational, both in its effect on decision making and in deepening relationships and spirituality. Here at 65 E. Huron our conversations have also become increasingly direct and honest, with resulting growth in efficiency and morale. To have a fierce conversation means not running away from the initial discomfort that comes when people are honest about things they have avoided discussing before.”

Steen learned about the book from Clarence Langdon, the diocese’s associate for leadership development, and became a passionate evangelist. He’s quick to debunk the misconception that fierceness is something to fear, citing, author Susan Scott, who wrote:  “…Fierce does not mean barbarous, menacing or cruel. Fierce means powerful, strong, unrestrained, robust. It means coming out from behind ourselves into the conversation and making it real.”

The Fierce training program develops skills to conduct four kinds of conversations: Team, in which a team discusses its goals, problems and strategy; Coaching, when people advance professional development and work toward project results; Delegation, to clarify people’s responsibilities and make sure goals are met; and Confrontation, when performance and behavioral issues are addressed. The Congregations Commission, one of the event’s sponsors, is especially enthusiastic about the training’s potential to reap immediate rewards for participating congregations.

“Participants in the Fierce Conversations training won’t role play,” says Steen. “They’ll real play. Rather than using simulated situations, leaders who attend the training will tackle real issues in their congregations, practicing actual conversations they need to have and getting real work done in the process.”

Although the training at St. Michael’s is focused on helping congregations cultivate more honest and productive conversations, Steen and other fans believe that fierce conversations belong at home and work too. In the book’s forward, management guru Ken Blanchard writes, “Our lives succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a business, a marriage or a life, any single conversation can.”

Not surprisingly, Steen and Langdon are both eager to have conversations about the value of Fierce Conversations. Leaders who are interested in the training can email Steen or Langdon to ask questions and learn more. The cost of the training is $100/person for three or fewer people from a congregation or organization and $75/person for four or more people, and scholarship help is available. Online registration is available here. The event will be hosted by St. Michael’s, Barrington, and is sponsored by the Congregations Commission, the Making Excellent Disciples program (MED), the Office of Lifelong Christian Formation, and Seabury Western Theological Seminary.

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