Don’t be fooled by the title of this episode…it’s not about lawyers or litigation! Rather, it’s a lively dialogue about how to apply the concepts from the award-winning book by Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time. Join me and Luis Gonzales, Communication and Culture expert and Master Facilitator from Fierce, Inc. Of course, I couldn’t resist asking Luis to explain the difference between fierce, crucial, radically candid, and difficult conversations, and his sagacious response was that it doesn’t really matter what you call it, they are all bold and courageous conversations that need to take place yet don’t happen often enough. How does one get past the fear or discomfort that deters us? Well, start with getting curious, beginning with “interrogating your own reality.” That means gaining more awareness of your unique personal filters and real reasons behind wanting to engage in a fierce conversation. We discussed applications ranging from coping with the stressors of #covid on your team to making real strides with #DEI in your organization. Also interesting is hearing how Fierce pivoted from nearly 100% in-person trainings to 100% virtual ones, with a combination of live online, asynchronous microlearning modules, 3D simulations, and a soon-to-be-released app (#thefutureisnow!).


Episode 58: Fierce Conversations and Interrogating Reality with Luis Gonzales

Shani Magosky: Is your team not performing well? Is morale low and turnover high? Are you falling further behind the competition? I’m here to help. I’m your host, Shani, and this is The LeaderShift Show where business strategy and culture finally meet and we make the long-awaited shift from rhetoric to results. I promise I’m not your typical born leadership consultant, and I will help you get your shift together. Let’s do this.

Hello, Leadershifters, and welcome to another episode of The LeaderShift Show with yours truly Shani. It has been a while, hashtag 2020. There have been a few things going on that have prevented me from recording some podcast episodes. Funny enough today’s guest Luis Gonzales, who is a culture and conversation expert and a master facilitator with Fierce Conversation, this is our third attempt to try and record the podcast because first, he had a work fire drill, and then I had a strange thing happened where the water went off in my apartment and I literally couldn’t take a shower and I’m too vain to get on the podcast with a baseball hat. Had to postpone again, so, third time is the charm, folks, and welcome Luis to The LeaderShift Show. Thanks for joining us today.

Luis Gonzales: Shani, thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

Shani: One of the first things I want to ask since you are a very senior-level person with Fierce Conversations and I think a lot of our listeners and watchers are familiar with Kim’s sorry Susan Scott’s book Fierce Conversations. It’s been on the business bestseller list multiple years and on a lot of executives’ bookshelves as I’ve wandered into people’s offices. Question is, what is the difference between a Fierce Conversation or a candid conversation or a radically candid conversation, a crucial conversation, a difficult conversation, et cetera? [chuckles]

Luis: Great question. I’m glad you asked that question. I think they’re all getting at the same thing. How to say what you know needs to be said, what you really feel, what you really want to say, what’s really inside of you that you want to get out there but oftentimes, we human beings hold back. Usually, there’s some fear holding us back. Fear of being wrong, fear of ruining a relationship, or what have you. I think we’re all trying to get at the same thing.

With Fierce Conversation, fierce is a strong word, fierce is bold, it’s assertive, it’s courageous, all those things. Those are the conversations that we’re talking about when we say fierce conversations. You can say it in so many other ways as you already did, but it’s meaning the same thing. Get out what you need to say, what should be said, and how do you do that in a way that enriches relationships.

Shani: Got it, and just quickly, without giving away the milk with the cow because I know people pay you a lot of money to come in and to teach them about fierce conversations, but what is the framework from an overall standpoint?

Luis: From an overall standpoint, let me just start with the starting point. How we look at it is this is a foundational belief that we have and it made perfect sense to me the first time I heard it, first time I read it in Fierce Conversations in Susan Scott’s book. Our careers, our companies our relationships, our lives, they either succeed or fail and it happens gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time.

For me, that really landed like, am I being intentional in all of my conversations in terms of where I want to go, what my results are, what results do I want to get, what kind of relationships do I want to have? Because it’s either a success or a failure and it doesn’t happen usually overnight, it’s gradual. Suddenly it’ll happen, whether it’s a success story that you’re going to celebrate or you missed the mark and you’re going to cry about it.

That’s where we start and then that leads us to the next idea that came to my mind anyway is that means there’s missing conversations. There’s conversations that were not happening that are not happening we’re not having, or in my case, I’ll speak for myself, unreal conversations. You know what I mean, the surface ones.

Shani: Yes. “Oh, no. Everything’s fine.”

Luis: Exactly.

Shani: Most people are conflict avoidant and fierce conversations are usually the constructive conversations. The feedback that you’re afraid to give a co-worker or a direct report or even up. I view managing up as a potentially fierce conversation as I’m sure you all do as well but the funny thing is, if you can get past the fear and show up to the conversation with the right mindset, it’s actually the biggest gift that you can give the person or the team or with the client or whomever is on the receiving end, right?

Luis: I would agree. How I pose it if you don’t mind my jumping in, how I pose it to people that I’m training and facilitating this with and having this conversation with is I just weigh it out. I avoid the conversation or I keep it surface. What’s the result of that going to be, what does that look like, am I going to be happy with that? What does that look like say six months down the road? Or, what if I do, master up the courage to have the conversation, there’s a 50% chance it’ll go well. It could go well or not. 50% chance could go well. What does that look like if it goes well, what do I stand to gain from that? Then I just wait it out.

Is it worth going through this little moment of pain the challenge of starting the conversation to get that result or am I okay with just keeping my mouth shut, keeping it surface, and having the other result? That’s how I look at it most of the time will go for it’s worth a little bit of a pain to risk on that 50% chance of it going well.

Shani: No pain no gain. Not just true in the gym, people.

Luis: I like that. It’s a muscle that we got to learn, we’re all still learning it you get better at it.

Shani: Absolutely. One of the things, folks, that Luis and I were talking about off-camera before we started was how to apply these skills in the day and age we’re living in where we think, we hope, we pray, we’re finally looking to make some breakthroughs around diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, et cetera. A lot of times, people don’t feel like they belong, not for overt reasons but for covert reasons like not speaking up in the face of something that is offensive to someone who isn’t in the in-group, whatever that is.

Luis: That’s right.

Shani: What advice do you have for listeners to help propel that forward and make some progress? Because in the past it’s like, “Oh, yes, we want more of this.” Then nothing happens. Companies maybe send a message to recruiting that they need to source some more diverse candidates and maybe the needle moves a little bit but ultimately because there’s no accountability and there’s no cultural infrastructure to it, it doesn’t succeed. It’s really these conversations where the rubber meets the road on making progress. I’m so curious to hear what you’re advising clients right now.

Luis: Sure. First of all, I’m advising clients number one, the conversations need to happen, so let’s go way back and start there. Everyone and I hate to use what do you call those words painting the wide brush.

Shani: Generalizations.

Luis: Generalizations or absolute terms. Everyone anecdotally speaking from my experience lately, this is a challenge for everyone from all sides. It’s difficult for me as perhaps the member of a group who has been marginalized, it’s difficult for me to open up about it, to just talk about it with my colleagues. Why should we do that, well, because we want good relationships, that’s another discussion about the value of having good relationships with the people you work with. Then there’s also the fear of speaking up that the corporate-speak, the corporate line is diversity and inclusion and let’s make and all of that.

I’ve just seen, five people get hired, and five people were hired after me have been promoted and they’re not very diverse looking what’s going on here? There’s hesitation on that side of it as well to even have that conversation. What to speak of just talking about the issues that are bubbling up in the surface of conversations in the public arena. We have that, then we have people who maybe come from other groups, let’s say group X that’s not so marginalized or more the majority or whatever, they’re not experiencing those pain points that some of the other people are.

They’re feeling some empathy, and they want to talk about it, and they want to say that I feel your pain or whatever. They somehow or other want to show some empathy and make the connection, but they’re afraid to say the wrong thing, they’re afraid to put their foot in their mouth. They’re afraid to maybe say the wrong thing and be labeled something, so there’s all this hesitation, and yet, turn on the news right now and it won’t take you but a few seconds to see that this is a topic of conversation in the public arena in the US, and now even globally in some places.

Shani: Absolutely.

Luis: The conversation needs to happen. The second recommendation I have is– That wasn’t even a recommendation, that was just an observation. The recommendation I have is to start the conversation, is start by getting curious. Don’t go into a conversation ready to share your point of view or show how you see it or share your experiences. It has been my experience, and we firmly believe this at Fierce, is to go in with curiosity first, interrogate reality. First of all, interrogate your own reality on your own.

Shani: I love that.

Luis: You know what I mean? Why do I want to have this conversation? What’s the goal here? Is it to make myself look good, get an ego stroke, get some spotlight on me, or is it really to develop some empathy and to really listen. Go in, this is my recommendation, Go into the conversation with curiosity first and really with the intention of really listening. Really listening, and then when they give you some information and you could start, a simple way to start that is, “Wow, tell me about that. Tell me more about that. What do you feel about that? Am I hearing you right? You’re saying this, this and this?” Show, some empathy.

“That, that sounds painful. Tell me more about that,” and then the trust starts to build a little bit perhaps, or maybe there are two people that already know each other, the trust is already there, but the ice is broken. Then eventually they may ask you, how do you see it, and the conversation begins. I’ll pause there, otherwise, we’ll go down a major– [crosstak]

Shani: I agree. I love, I wrote the phrase down, interrogate your own reality because I mean, honestly, that’s really what it’s going to take to have widespread change here is everyone’s got to take responsibility for being more self-aware of what their own reality is. It doesn’t make anyone’s reality bad, it just makes it unique to them.

Luis: That’s right.

Shani: Because I think part of it is, I mean, sure, there’s so much blame and shame to go around, but the average person like you were talking about who is just sort of learning and trying to do the right thing, that’s a great place for them to start is like, “Hey, what are my own filters based on my own experiences,” and realizing that that is what it is. It’s a filter, it’s not the truth, and it’s certainly not anybody else’ truth. You know what? It’s getting curious from that place that is good. The other thing that was percolating in my mind as you said to really listen, is how bad most people are at listening because so many people are listening to respond, not listening to understand.

Luis: Yes. That’s why I have to follow up with that because I can say go in with the intent of being curious and asking questions. What’ll happen is if I don’t follow up with and really listen, people will go in with the questions and as they’re getting the answers or responses to those questions, they’ll already be formulating the next question or the response to that answer, right?

Shani: Exactly.

Luis: Go in and just soak it up, be a good listener. If I can just comment really quickly before we move on, on you were talking about a filter, I think is how you described it. We call it the context filter. We all have one. They’re not right, they’re not wrong, it’s just how we interpret things. My reality probably might be quite different from yours. Even if we were to look out the same window, we’d have a different perspective on things, right?

Shani: Yes.

Luis: That interrogating reality, and I said, starting with your own reality first, let’s say, for example, I decided I want to give Shani feedback. I’ve observed her doing something that might be a little off and so I’m going to give her feedback. Okay. Stop for a moment and interrogate reality, starting with your own. Why do I want to give Shani feedback? Is it to look good? How do I know she wants the feedback?

Shani: Right. Is the feedback more about me or you?

Luis: Yes, what about you? Do I have assumptions about Shani that she can’t do your job well based on a previous experience I had? All of that is interrogating your own reality, right. I wanted to point that out.

Shani: I love that. I was going to say, you can model giving me some feedback about my really bad Kenny Rogers impersonation on a prior episode that you said you saw because I know that I have a lot of strengths and singing isn’t one of them.

Luis: Yes, but you kept it real and that’s what we’re all about, man, keeping it real. You know what? You like Kenny Rogers and you liked that song and you just went with it.

Shani: I love Kenny Rodgers.

Luis: That was your context or your filter, that I don’t have a bad voice, or whatever, for me, that was about 20 minutes into the podcast. That was the clincher for me that went, I can’t wait to be a guest on this podcast, so there you have it.

Shani: That’s right. Because you never know when I’m going to pause for a karaoke moment.


That’s good stuff. I’m glad you have a good sense of humor about it. Let’s shift to the other big thing that’s happening in the world, which is obviously, the sustained impact of COVID-19 which is soon going to have to be called COVID-19 and 20 and 21. [chuckles]

Luis: Apparently.

Shani: There’s a few different branches off of that tree that I wanted to explore with you. The first one is a more general one that relates to, I think, what you and Fierce do in general, which is about examining one’s victim mindset. Because it’s easy to be like, “Oh, everything sucks because of COVID,” and “I don’t have any privacy anymore because the kids are home and my spouse and I are both working at home,” and, “Oh, I couldn’t buy toilet paper,” whatever. That’s not going to get you through the pandemic, is it? [chuckles]

Luis: No, and guess what? Here’s the funny part. If you really think about it, you’re absolutely right. It sucks. Wallow in it for a day. Wallow in your Netflix cave for a day, but then, you know what–

Shani: Right, or two, depending on how long you’re binge-watching a show, yes.

Luis: Okay. It’s a weekend. All right, I’ll give you two days, but you know what, at some point, as you said, I’ll say it in a different way, it’s not going to get you the results you probably really want to get. Should I go with that? Should I continue because how I looked at it is t’s a mindset and you’re absolutely right. I’ll use me for a perfect example. I was traveling 100% of the time with Fierce prior to March. Every week I was somewhere. I was home probably less than I was in hotels and I loved that lifestyle. That came to a screeching halt on March 13th, I remember the day, and for three months, maybe two, it’s sucked, I hope I can say that.

Shani: Oh my God, you can say any four-letter word on my show.

Luis: Thank you.

Shani: I roll out the red carpet for four-letter words.

Luis: In the spirit of keeping it real. Yes, it sucked. You know what, I have jackhammers going on outside. I live next to a train. I’m in an apartment building. I got music, screaming people, and I can imagine other people too have their oh, woe is me about all of this stuff. How we look at it at Fierce as this way. Okay, you’re absolutely right it sucks, but given the current sucky situation you find yourself in, what can you do even however small, what can you do to move it in a different direction? Because it is what it is. I hate to overuse that term, it’s so cliche, but it is what it is.

Hey, you in your Netflix cave for more than two days is not going to make the situation any better. It’s not going to make you feel any better about it, and it’s probably not going to improve your results.

Shani: That’s right.

Luis: Given the current situation that yes, it’s not pleasant, what can you do to get a different result even if it’s that one thing. If you latch onto that one thing and you do that, you’ll find your mentality starts to shift. The way I look at it is, first of all, and I’m going to ship this to working with teams and remote teams. If you’re leading a team and now they’re remote, and you guys and girls used to be in the office, now everybody’s remote and you’re a leader of the team and you got people complaining. “Woe is me,” and, “My husband’s asleep on the couch and the kids are trying to do work,” and whatever–

Shani: I have a headache from too many Zoom calls.

Luis: To be able to have the conversation with that person, to help them shift from a victim mindset to an accountable mindset, we have to be able to do that for ourselves first to be able to model it. Because it’s my firm belief, it’s a belief at Fierce as well, accountability cannot be trained, cannot be mandated, people cannot be held accountable, it’s a choice. It’s a personal choice. It’s an outlook that I decide to have. It sounds like what I just said a minute ago, given the current sucky situation I find myself in, what can I do to move this in a different direction and get a different result?

Shani: Absolutely. I say the same thing you’re preaching to, not just a choir, but an orchestra.

Luis: [laughs] You get it.

Shani: I say the same thing and it is it’s true. It’s fine. We have to process the emotion, or else it’s going to get stuck, and then we’re going to have more neck aches and lower back pain and whatever. Once we do that, we do. The way to get unstuck and to do something different is to think something different first.

Luis: Yes.

Shani: It absolutely is a mindset. People can say, oh, it’s Pollyanna to always look at the silver lining, but if you choose differently, how’s that working for you?

Luis: I get how you call it a silver lining, but I’m going to just downgrade it. I’m not even calling it a silver lining, it’s a choice.

Shani: Right.

Luis: I can sit here in my Netflix cave for days and do whatever it is I do.

Shani: Like eat bonbons. [laughs]

Luis: Eat bonbons or whatever, or I can do something else. I’ll probably feel different, I’ll probably have a different result. Will it change everything? No, but it will change my current reality. It’ll change my experience of my current reality, it’ll change the way I feel about it, my emotions will change.

Shani: Let’s stay on that because that was really one of the other two branches I want to talk about was as a leader, the variety of fierce conversations that you may have to have during this time is maybe even greater than in regular times because people are under even more stress and strain and so forth. There’s the fierce conversation around performance and accountability and so forth, and then, there’s other fierce, touchy conversations around mental health. I say it’s fierce because I think a lot of leaders, they don’t want to poke that bear, but people are struggling and suffering. Are you hearing that as well from your clients?

Luis: Yes, especially now, you’ve heard probably buzzword going around Zoom fatigue, I happen to be doing webinars now all the time. What I’ve been hearing from leaders that I work with, and what I’ve been hearing from my colleagues who are also working with leaders is that, now that there’s this emotional need to connect, people are thirsty for the connection and we’re not getting it, and we’re not going to get it anytime soon in terms of, used to have, how we used to connect. The onus is on us, especially the leaders, we’re all leaders, but you know what I mean.

Shani: Yes.

Luis: The onus is on us to really initiate those conversations, number one, and figure out ways to make those connections, to address the emotional needs of our– At the end of the day, we’re all human beings. We’re emotionally hardwired, we’re built this way, we crave connection. Even now that we’re remote, again, it’s on us to make sure that we’re reaching out. The other thing I’ll say, that just came to my mind that I’ve been thinking about and reading about as well is, not the business as usual calls all the time. Check in with your people, even your colleagues.

When I say your people, I mean up, down, and across, it doesn’t matter. Check in with them without an agenda. Turn around the camera, let them see you smile, a genuine smile because we humans can perceive when a smile is genuine or not.

Shani: [laughs]

Luis: Those are just small ways and yes, that’s the main thing I’ve been hearing is, we got, number one Zoom fatigue, but I don’t know what to say about that [chuckles] because it’s going to be a reality for a while.

Shani: Right. I think people just have to get creative about it. I agree, it’s much better to connect over Zoom or some other platform than to do things over the phone, but also giving people the opportunity to say, “I do have a headache. I’m going to participate by phone today,” or “I’m going to take a walk while I participate today,” or just something to mix it up, because people have to move their bodies and get out of these damn seats. [chuckles]

Luis: Again, talking about the fear or the hesitation of speaking up, that could be an example of an unreal or a surface conversation. What do you really need to say? I really need to say I’m getting a migraine, and I need to turn off for two hours. People will not necessarily, not everyone will readily say that and offer that and volunteer that. For leaders in particular, again, it’s up to us to check in and to ask to go in with curiosity, “Given everything you have on your plate right now, what can I do to support you? How can I support you better? Is there anything you need that we haven’t talked about?”

Maybe they won’t divulge it on the first conversation but as you continue those conversations without an agenda, just checking in genuinely, then people will open up and say, “You know what, boss, I need a two-hour break. I’m getting a migraine.” “Please do.”

Shani: Let’s move to, and this is something that not only the rest of the world is experiencing, we as consultants and facilitators who used to be on the road all the time, are having our own challenges here. I’m curious what your experience has been with Fierce because I know that training companies, by and large, like Fierce and many of the other top ones, mostly deliver in person. What tactics have you all employed to keep the lights on?

Luis: It’s been a journey and we’re still on the journey, I will say. I’m pretty proud of that, I don’t know how to explain it. In the moment, I’m going back to March of 2020, March, April, when everything just suddenly got locked down and all of my travel was canceled. There was a month of shock, it was probably two months of shock. Two months of, I remember not doing a whole lot of work and thinking, I’m getting paid for this. Then suddenly, the fire got lit up under our butts and we’re like, we got a pivot now. This is not going away and we’re losing, we’re getting cancellations, and nobody’s booking. We got to pivot.

We quickly pivoted to completely online. That led to more branching, improving our website, and going now, really putting a lot of our focus and energy on asynchronous learning, on 3D, web-based, virtual reality little micro-learning sessions where people can practice-

Shani: Oh, nice.

Luis: -[crosstalk] conversations. Now, again, this is a journey for me, I’m learning as I go along. There are so many ways and so many modalities where learning can happen online and it’s not just always on Zoom. Asynchronous, go read this when you have time and watch that video when you have time when the kids are asleep, then we’ll get on a webinar in the morning for two hours. A little bit of Zoom overload all right, but it’s only two hours, and then go practice the conversation in a virtual reality scenario with bots [laughs] that are going to have the conversation with you.

It’s really exciting stuff, we’re barely on the cusp of the possibilities to come. Unfortunately, as you and I were talking about, it doesn’t sound like COVID is going away anytime soon. I am heads down on this on how we can continue to make this effective and engaging. Not only that, that’s important, effective and engaging, but that the learning actually translates into change behavior and action, remotely now.

Shani: Sure. On that topic, it’s funny. I love how things in life start to intersect. LeaderShift Project is one of a handful of sponsors for the ATD virtual conference right now. I was listening to one of the presentations yesterday by an instructional designer/consultant. She and her business partner have, and they’ve been working on this since before COVID, they’ve got a new approach to learning that they’re calling Learning Cluster Design, LCD.


What I love about it is it takes the different ways people learn in the modern world and encourages L&D professionals to target all three of them. Because it’s like the live in-person was so pervasive for so long, and sure, a lot of companies have started to do some Asynchronous things and online things, but still, it’s all been focused in this in-person experience. She’s saying, which I totally agree with, that people are also learning on their own, through apps and in their own time, and they’re learning on the job, which has always been like the hardest nut to crack.

She was just giving examples of all the different ways that you can insert learning and really powerful content into all three of those modes. I’m glad that you guys have figured that out.

Luis: I wanted to mention that too, you brought up something we just were talking about it this week. I don’t know if I should actually say it or not, but I will. We will have an app released. It’s not released yet, so everybody, stay tuned.

Shani: [screams].

Luis: I know I can say that.

Shani: You heard it here first. [chuckles]

Luis: This is the beauty of it because when we were 100% in-classroom training, or 98%, 95%, in-classroom training, we were doing a few webinars, it tended to be, we would leave a workshop after a day or after two days, and maybe I’d stay in contact with them and give them any support they needed a few weeks after that, but eventually, you don’t hear from them anymore and people eventually go back to the old way that they were doing things, a lot of the time. Now, with all of these different methods that you just mentioned, including the app, man, everybody’s got a cell phone and they’re sitting on a bus or they’ve got free time, they’re like, “I need to have that confrontation conversation with Shani and I’m nervous about it. I’m going to her house right now. Let me get a refresher right here on the app.”

Now in a moment at any time, 24 hours a day, from anything that’s connected to the internet, you can get this information at your fingertips and practice it and get ready for the conversation. To me, that translates into what I was saying a minute ago, the behavior change.

Shani: I love that. It sounds like at the end of the day, which is also a cliché. “At the end of the day” falls under those way too frequently used business clichés. Sorry, I hate those.

Luis: I know, me too.

Shani: It sounds like that Fierce, that this has been a good thing because it’s going to position you to make a bigger impact through the different modalities that you’ve developed as a result of having no alternative.

Luis: Absolutely. We’ve always said we wanted to make an impact on the world and bring fierce conversations, it’s so needed out there, but I will say, this whole turn of events in this year 2020 has really, again, to use that cliché, put the fire up under our butts. We would have been comfortable before all that happened. Sailing along and we’re making sales and we’re profitable and we’re humming along comfortably. Now it’s like, “Whoa, we got to be on the cutting edge, we got to think in ways we have never thought before.” It’s exciting.

Shani: Good. There’s one other thing I had made a note of that I wanted to ask you about just mainly because I like the term and I want to understand what it means for myself and for other people too. Decision vacuum. What is a decision vacuum? I’m assuming it’s something that you don’t want to get sucked into. How do we get out?

Luis: Decision vacuum is making decisions in a silo, mostly leaders. The higher up you go the more siloed you get in a way. You have bigger visions, yes, but you’re only seeing certain things, so you make decisions in this vacuum without hearing different perspectives, without hearing the devil’s advocates, without having anyone really look at whatever it is you’re planning, proposing, deciding and going, “Wait a minute. Whoa, there’s an error here. If you roll this out it’s going to affect our clients this way and they won’t like that.” That’s a decision vacuum.

How do you break out of that? Not every decision needs to be made this way, but many of them can. Whenever you’re about to roll out a new plan, roll out a new project, make a big decision that’s going to affect other stakeholders, any of those things, or sometimes you just think you have a bright idea, but you want to make sure it actually is a bright idea, get a think tank. Get people, not five, six, seven, other people around you from different departments, different roles, different perspectives than your own. I encourage people to grab those, not literally but recruit those people who you probably don’t want to hear their perspective.

Get them, and then share with them, “Here’s what I’m planning to do, here’s what I’m planning to roll out.” Whatever it is, “Here’s what I’ve looked at, here’s what I think the pros and the cons are. What would you do if you were me right now and you had to make this decision?” It’s a little bit bigger than that. You start off by telling what the issue is, et cetera. Then you basically pose it to them, “What would you do?” You get their perspectives and you still make your decision, but now you can make a better decision because you’ve had people poke holes in your ideas, find the weak spots, you’re able to strengthen it, you’re able to avoid disaster with a client perhaps that you didn’t see. Now you can tweak your plan so that doesn’t happen.

Shani: That’s fabulous because most people when they’re looking for feedback on an idea or a decision, go to people from whom they think they’re going to get agreement, and all that is just confirmation bias. When people tell you what they think you want to hear, that’s not actually helpful. I really appreciate the suggestion to go out and recruit people who have different ideas and have what might be a fierce conversational debate from a devil’s advocate, but at least then you’ve explored the edges and not just stayed in your own little world.

Luis: You know who does this as an example and who does this really well, they’re known for this? Robert Redford does this. He runs his own organization.

Shani: I had no idea.

Luis: Yes, Robert Redford and Oprah Winfrey.

Shani: That doesn’t surprise me.

Luis: They typically open their meetings by saying something like, don’t quote me, “Here’s my idea, here’s what I think we should do, here’s what I think I’m going to do, whatever it is, now I want you to please tell me where I’ve missed the mark, where I might be wrong, what you see that I’m not seeing.”

Shani: Great. That’s a politically nice thing to say. I would probably go in and be like, “Here’s my idea, I want you to shit all over it.” Not in a mean way, but just to hear other points of view.

Luis: You’ll know how to make it stronger, you’ll see things you haven’t thought of in that way. Again, I’m going to repeat this, but it works really well. We can use this in so many different contexts, but especially in an organization with a bunch of stakeholders on different teams. Let’s say, if I’m in operations, for example, I’m going to make a big decision, it’s going to affect sales and it’s going to affect who knows who else. I will invite the leaders of those teams to my 30-minute meeting and share it with them.

The interesting thing is a lot of times at first if people are not used to this sort of communication, they’ll say, “You’re in operations, what could I possibly offer in support? I’m not really sure, but I’ll go to your meeting.” Then after the meeting is over, everybody has learned something about the other people who are invited to that meeting, about how they see things, how that decision is going to affect their department. “Aha,” moments about everything that that department has on their plate, that they didn’t even realize, all of this happens and the leader who assembled this group of three, four, five, six people, maybe for 30 minutes now knows, “Okay, I feel good about this decision I’m going to make, or I’m going to go tweak it and then roll it out.”

The last thing I’m going to say on this, the best part is when the leader or whoever it is rolls out this whatever it is, the project or does whatever they’re going to do, and let’s say it’s an awesome success, and three quarters later or sometime later, accolades come for that person having made that decision that was so beneficial and we gained so much money, they then get to enrich relationships further by shining some spotlight on the team that collaborated with them. “Hey, I could not have made that awesome decision without the collaboration of John, Joe, Susie, Jane, and whoever else was on the team.” Everybody gets some love and it’s beautiful. [chuckles]

Shani: It just really takes us full circle to breaking down silos in that way helps us actually need to have fewer fierce conversations, cross-functionally at least.

Luis: Yes, or at least make it easier, because I don’t think there’s ever a time when we don’t need to have fierce conversations. Life would have to end.

Shani: Oh, for sure. I just mean when decisions get made in a vacuum and sales doesn’t communicate with operations and so they’re overpromising something that can never be delivered, if more constituents internally involved in those decisions, there’s always going to be other fierce conversations, but at least the, “Why the hell didn’t you consult me about this conversation?” maybe doesn’t have to happen.

Luis: Those fierce conversations won’t have to happen, yes. “You made this whole plan, you roll up this new process and procedure and you didn’t even check in with us and now we got to apologize to our clients because it’s affecting the way–?” Yes.

Shani: Exactly. Thank you so much for joining me today, Luis. If folks have questions or want to reach you, what’s the best way?

Luis: Best way is to go to our website, first of all, go to Go to podcasts first of all. I want to direct everyone to the podcast page. That’s where this podcast will be hosted whenever it’s released. From there you can also see the resources tab. We have tons of free resources. It’s and from there, jump around. Connect with me on LinkedIn. Love to connect and network with people that are into this stuff. I’m on LinkedIn. Luis Gonzales. It’s, you’ll see how my name is spelled in your notes.

Shani: Yes, absolutely.

Luis: Real pleasure, loved being on the show.

Shani: Yes, thank you and thank you, Leadershifters, for listening. I hope you come away today with some additional skills and motivation to have some fierce conversations of your own, whether they’re with colleagues, friends, family, neighbors, who knows. In the spirit of helping everybody get through this difficult time and making some progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and whatever it takes.

I’m going to go back to it because it’s one of my favorite things that we talked about today was interrogating your reality. It’s really two-fold, as the concept unfolded was, one, what are the filters or the lenses that you’re looking at any given situation through, and interrogating the reality of why you want to have a fierce conversation. Is it about you? Are you projecting or are you really trying to help the other person? Interrogating your motives as you enter into these fierce conversations which have to be had, period, full-stop. Thanks for joining us today. See you next time. [blows kiss]

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