conversations | the fierce newsletter


December 2014 Edition

Welcome to the December edition of Conversations, the Fierce newsletter.

This December, we highlight a letter from Susan Scott, Founder of Fierce, Inc. We also share articles about horrible bosses, workplace hygiene, performance reviews, and more. Additionally, the Fierce in the Schools team shares updates.

As always, we're interested in hearing your thoughts on our Fierce blog, and don't forget to check out upcoming workshops, webinars, and other events.

1. 2014 Year End: Kaleidoscopes. Magical. Fireworks in a tube.
2. Fierce News!
3. Fierce in the Schools News!
4. Fierce Events: Save the Date

1. 2014 Year End: Kaleidoscopes. Magical. Fireworks in a tube. 

Do you remember the first time you looked into a kaleidoscope as a child? What a pretty picture. And then you turned it and the magic happened, one piece shifted, an explosion of color. Complete transformation. And it’s impossible to return to the picture you saw before.

The epiphany that launched Fierce occurred when I was reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, in which a man is asked, “How did you go bankrupt?” He replies, “Gradually, then suddenly.” My epiphany, having had over ten thousand hours of conversations with leaders, was that our careers, our companies, our relationships, and indeed, our very lives succeed or fail, gradually then suddenly, one conversation at a time.

Business is fundamentally an extended conversation -- with employees, customers and the unknown future emerging around us. What gets talked about in a company, how it gets talked about, and who gets invited to the conversation determines what will happen. Or won’t happen. Conversations provide clarity or confusion. Invite cross-boundary collaboration and cooperation or add concertina wire to the walls between well-defended fiefdoms. Inspire us to tackle our toughest challenges or stop us dead in our tracks wondering why we bothered to get out of bed this morning.



It’s time to change the conversation. In fact, it’s crucial. Here’s why: Our most valuable currency is not money. Nor is it intelligence, attractiveness or fluency in three-letter acronyms. It is relationship.  It is emotional capital. The 2002 Nobel prize for economics was awarded to a psychology professor at Princeton whose studies prove beyond any doubt that we behave emotionally first, rationally second. Let’s translate that to you, your career, and your organization. Each of us accumulates or loses emotional capital, building relationships we enjoy or endure with colleagues, bosses, customers and vendors one conversation at a time.

And what about closer to home? A friend confessed that he was often frustrated that his spouse seemingly needed to talk, yet again, about the same thing they talked about last weekend. And it often had something to do with their relationship. He wondered, “Why are we talking about this again? I thought we settled this. Couldn’t we just have one huge conversation about our relationship and then coast for a year or two?”

Eventually, it dawned on him. This ongoing, robust conversation I have been having with my wife is not about the relationship. The conversation is the relationship. If the conversation stops, all possibilities for the relationship become smaller and all possibilities for the individuals in the relationship become smaller, until one day we overhear ourselves in midsentence, making ourselves smaller in every encounter, behaving as if we are just the space around our shoes, engaged in yet another three-minute conversation so empty of meaning it crackles.



Incremental degradation -- if we compromise at work or at home, if we lower the standards about how often we talk, what we talk about, and most important, the degree of authenticity we bring to our conversations – it’s a slow and deadly slide. Meanwhile, the organization’s strategy keeps stalling. Cross-boundary collaboration isn’t happening. Leaders play whack-a-mole, micro-managing versus leading. Original thinking is happening elsewhere. Employees have little or no emotional connection to the organization and its customers. Relationships steadily disintegrate, one failed or missing conversation at a time.

At such a crossroads, most leaders review measurable goals, economic indicators, cash flow projections, process and procedures. Staggering amounts of money are dedicated to reviewing basic business processes while employees long for one galvanizing conversation. Just one. I know. I’ve talked with thousands of them. It is the unusual leader who turns his or her attention to the conversations of the company and yet, our leverage point, our fulcrum, is the conversation in which we are engaged at any given moment in time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship or a life, any single conversation can.

Think about what is happening in the news. So much tragedy, pain, loss. Consider the embarrassment that is the U.S. Congress, highly intelligent men and women who cannot, will not collaborate, who apparently would rather be right, than get it right for all of us.

A leader’s job is to engineer epiphanies one conversation at a time. Conversations that reveal we are capable of original thought. Intelligent, spirited conversations that provide clarity and impetus for change.



How do you begin? By recognizing that a careful conversation is a failed conversation because it merely postpones the conversation that wants and needs to take place. Don’t linger on the edges. Small confusions are easy to clear up and can lull you into thinking you’ve addressed your subject in a comprehensive way. Instead, ask yourself: What is the deepest issue in this confusion? Speak toward it, with firmness and concentration.

Epiphanies aren’t granted to those who are sleep-walking through the manual or who pitch a self-serving agenda. Instead, epiphanies seek out those who give the purity of their attention to the next words. In 2015, let’s engage ourselves there, and tell the truth as much as we can. There is something deep within us that responds to those who level with us, who don’t suggest our compromises for us. You may try to say something trivial and find that you can’t do it. You must speak directly to the heart of the issue. You must warm your heart, open your mind and listen intently to those who see things differently.

Pushing our own limits brings exhilaration. Our edge can be a growing edge. Or it can be an edge from which we topple. The fall won’t kill us. Avoiding the topic could.

So, to supply you with material for fierce conversations of your own, gather your team together and ask:

  • What’s the most important thing we should be talking about today?
  • What do we believe is impossible for us to do, that if it were possible, would change everything?
  • If nothing changes, what’s likely to happen?



And on a personal note: What’s the conversation out there with your name on it? The one you’ve been avoiding for days, weeks, months, years? Who is it with and what’s the topic?

No one has to change, but everyone has to have the conversation. When the conversation is real, the change occurs before the conversation has ended.

And don’t try to have important conversations via e-mail. The most powerful communications technology any of us will ever have is eye contact. The next is voice. Dead last is words on a page or a screen. So, how about you look into my baby greens, I’ll look into your baby browns. That way, we’ll see one another a whole lot clearer.

2. Fierce News! 

Fierce Quarterly Mural

This mural reflects the end of 2014 and illuminates our newly launched Fierce Feedback program. The concept was created by our Art Director, Steve Pecoraro and represents a hand drawn light bulb by each member of our Fierce team.

See the whole piece

Horrible Bosses: 3 Worst Offenders

Halley Bock, President & CEO of Fierce identifies the best and worst characteristics of a boss.

Read the article

How to Handle An Employee with Poor Hygiene

Halley Bock shares her insights on how to prepare for a conversation with an employee on the topic of hygiene.

Read the article

Conducting Dynamic Performance Appraisals

This research paper highlights vital characteristics of a dynamic performance appraisal and shares insights for both the manager and direct report.

Read the research paper

Fierce Facilitator Summit 2015

Did you attend our summit in 2013? If not, you're in for a surprise. Our Fierce Facilitator Summit 2015 will be packed with sessions focused on you and your development. Registration is now open!

Experience the Summit

Blog Posts

Fierce Tip of the Week: Make a Commitment – This blog highlights the idea of making a commitment.

Holidng Back? 3 Tips to Foster More Feedback – This blog shares tips to create a more feedback in your daily life.

Fierce Tip of the Week: Celebrate This Year – This week’s tip is to share what you are most proud of. What did you accomplish in 2014?

Be Fierce: Step into 2015 with Courage – This blog provides a framework for choosing the one thing that you will accomplish in 2015.

Fierce Tip of the Week: Say Sorry First – This week’s tip is to say sorry first. Dont' wait around for the other person to speak first.

Bring Conversations Back to Your School – This blog looks at the challenges students and teachers face on a daily basis and highlights the need to have conversations in a compassionate way.

Fierce Tip of the Week: Imagine New Possibilities – This week’s tip is to think about your pipe dreams, what are you doing today to support them?

How to Stay Present – Highlights how to be aware and stay connected to your team.

Fierce Tip of the Week: Set Your Intention – This week’s tip is to set your intention. What do you want to focus on?

What People are Saying

"This program is applicable to all levels within the organization. The skills learned have the potential to bring a complete transformation to the conversation you and your team members have. It was one of the best trainings I have ever participated in."
– Peter Lynch, Vice President Learning & Organizational Development, AIMCO

"I felt the experience was amazing and provided me with a wealth of information to help me improve my personal and professional relationships. I intend to integrate the principles into my daily activities to help foster and build better relationships through effective communication by taking risks and sharing my true self."
– Rachel Ashkin, Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Hall Group

"Since we acquired one European company and another US-based company, Fierce has been one of the crucial components to help our shift to a collaborative culture across all of our teams, wherever they are located."
– Rosie Burns, Senior Human Resources Manager, Reischling Press Incorporated

3. Fierce in the Schools News! 

We had an amazing time at the Learning Forward Annual Conference 2014. Learning Forward is devoted exclusively to advancing professional learning for student success. More than 125 people attended our session “Tackling Your Toughest Challenge” with our founder and author, Susan Scott and our executive director, Dr. Angela Brooks-Rallins.   

As we reflect on our year and what 2014 has taught us, we are truly grateful for all of you and the impact you have had on Fierce in the Schools including sharing strategies that help sustain the work you do within your schools. We look forward to continuing the conversation with each of you near and far in 2015. 


The FITS Team

4. Fierce Events: Save the Date 

Attending one of our workshops is a wonderful way to evaluate Fierce for your organization. If you would like more information, please click on the options below.

January 12-13th in Seattle, WA

Fierce Conversations Workshop (2 Days)

January 26-27th in New York City, NY

Fierce Conversations Workshop (2 Days)

February 9-10th in Seattle, WA

Fierce Conversations Workshop (2 Days)

March 9-10th in Seattle, WA

Fierce Conversations Workshop (2 Days)

March 16-17th in New York City, NY

Fierce Conversations Workshop (2 Days)

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