Fierce Conversations – Synopsis

Susan Scott, 2004. Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & Life, One Conversation at a Time. New York: Berkley Books. This synopsis is provided here as I found the book very useful and I encourage you to purchase it and read it as well.

Principle 1: Master the Courage to Interrogate Reality
Principle 2: Come Out from Behind Yourself into the Conversation and Make It Real
Principle 3: Be Here, Prepared to Be Nowhere Else
Principle 4: Tackle Your Toughest Challenge Today
Principle 5: Obey Your Instincts
Principle 6: Take Responsibility for Your Emotional Wake
Principle 7: Let Silence Do the Heavy Lifting


  1. What is the most important thing we should be talking about today?
  2. What topic are you hoping I won’t bring up? What topic am I hoping you won’t bring up?
  3. What do you believe is impossible to do, that if we were able to do it would completely change the game? How can we pull this off?
  4. What values do we stand for and are there gaps between those values and how we actually behave?
  5. What is our organization pretending not to know? What are we pretending not to know?
  6. How have we behaved in ways guaranteed to produce the results with which we’re unhappy?
  7. What’s the most important decision we’re facing? What’s keeping us from making it?
  8. If we were hired to consult our company, what advice would we give?
  9. If we were competing with our company, what strategy would we use?
  10. If nothing changes, what is likely to happen?
  11. What are the conversations out there with our names on them? Who are they with and what are the topics? The ones we have been avoiding for days, weeks, months, and years?
  12. Given everything we’ve explored together, what’s the next most potent step we need to take? What’s going to try to get in our way? When will we take it? When should we touch base about how it went and what’s next?


  1. What has become clear since we last met?
  2. What is the area that, if you made an improvement, would give you and others the greatest return on time, energy, and dollars invested
  3. What is currently impossible to do that, if it were possible, would change everything?
  4. What are trying to make happen in the next three months?
  5. What is the most important decision you are facing? What’s keeping you from making it?
  6. What topic are you hoping I won’t bring up?
  7. What area under your responsibility are you most satisfied with? Least satisfied with?
  8. What part of your responsibilities are you avoiding right now?
  9. What do you wish you had more time to do?
  10. What threatens your peace? The business? Your health? Your personal fulfillment?


  1. Fierce conversations start with you and how you show up. It requires that you model the behaviour you desire from others.
  2. The conversation IS the relationship.
  3. The conversation hasn’t ended just because the conversation has ended.
  4. You cannot be here, prepared to be nowhere else, when you are interrupted by beeps, and buzzes.
  5. Until you get to Step Seven in the process, only ask questions. Probe. This is not about you or your ideas/stories.
  6. The person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge the leader.
  7. Eliminate the word “but” from your vocabulary, and replace it with the word “and”.
  8. Honesty means full disclosure to me and others with good intent.
  9. The answers are in the room.
  10. “Ground truth” refers to what is actually happening on the ground, versus the “Official truth,” which is what organizations/we say exists, think exists, pretend exists, want to exist.
  11. “We are here to talk about the effect your leadership style is having on the team, Jackie. What is going on from where you sit?” “Now, tell what you are willing to do, Jackie…That isn’t adequate. There must some changes on your part. Tell me something. Have you ever received feedback like this before?”

Professional Development & Delegation Tool

LEAF Decisions
Make the decision. Act upon it. Do not report the action you took.
BRANCH Decisions
Make the decision. Act upon it. Report the action you took daily, weekly or monthly.
TRUNK Decisions
Make the decision. Report your decision before you take action.
ROOT Decisions
Make the decision jointly, with input from many people.

THE ISSUE IS: (The heart of the problem. Is it an increasingly troublesome concern, challenge, opportunity, or problem?)



What is at stake?


How does this affect dollars, income, people, products, services, customers, family, timing, the future, or other relevant factors?


What is the future impact if the issue is not resolved?


MY IDEAL OUTCOME IS: (Briefly describe the specific results do you want?)



How, when, why and why did the issue start?


Who are the key players?


Which forces are at work?


What is the issue’s current status?





THE HELP I WANT FROM THE GROUP IS:(e.g., alternative solutions, confidence regarding the correct decision, identification of consequences, where to find more information, critique of the current plan, etc.)



COMMITMENT TO ACTION: (What the first thing/most potent step I am going to do/take as a result of this discussion and by when.)