1. Carlson, Elizabeth Ann

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The DK Essential Manager books and Crucial Conversations (2nd Ed.) are useful books for managers and anyone who works with people to read and incorporate the ideas into their daily routine.


Perhaps, you have seen a DK book before. I became acquainted with them years ago when our young son was interested in ships and we found a DK visual dictionary on Ships and Sailing. I was surprised to learn that DK has books on management topics. The one I looked through in the library was one, if not the first, Essential Manager's Manual. It was dated, but it promoted me to look for additional DK books. There are 15 titles in the DK Essential Managers Series. Four titles due out December 2021 are updated versions of ones published in 2015, thus providing 11 topics. I have not reviewed all the titles currently available. However, I found the variety of topics quite wide-ranging.


The book titles all begin with Essential Managers, were written by different authors, use a "how-to" approach, and contain step-by-step instructions, tips, and checklists. The "Ask Yourself" features show how to boost your confidence and overcome challenges. There are tables, illustrations, "in-focus" panels, and real-life case studies. The series of books range between $8.50 and $9.99 per book. The topics offered include Achieving High Performance (2015), Effective Communication (2015), Presenting (2015), Essential Manager's Handbook (2016), and Flexible Working (2021). Four updated versions available December 2021 are Managing People, Negotiating, Leadership, and Project Management.


I suggest these books are either a good introduction to the topic for a beginning manager or a quick refresher on a topic needing to be addressed. As I stated, I have not reviewed all the books but suggest it would be worthwhile to see if any of these topics assist you or a new manager.


This next book is a one you are either familiar with or have heard mentioned. When I asked a seasoned senior nursing leader if she had any suggestions for a book to review, she immediately stated "Crucial Conversations." And then talked about how she would review pertinent sections of the book when she anticipated having a difficult or "crucial" conversation with colleagues, employees, and her boss. So I offer this book and her advice to you.


Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High (2nd Ed.) by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler (2012) published by McGraw Hill, New York, and 244 pages in length. This content is available in a variety of media and cost: paperback book $17-$20.00, hardcover book $26-$30.00, MP3 CD $11.00, or Kindle $10.00.


The book begins with a Foreword to the second edition and the Foreword to the first edition, both written by Steven Covey. The Preface states that in 2002 the authors made a bold claim that "the root cause of many-if not most-human problems lies in how people behave when others disagree with them about high-stakes, emotional issues" (p. xiii). Learning skills to master these high-stakes, crucial conversations results in improvements in organizational performance. Examples are given by readers of the first edition including a nurse who stated she saved a patient's life by having a crucial conversation with a defensive doctor. The authors indicate they have made changes to clarify key points and provide updated examples. They added new research findings, reader stories that illustrate key principles, and links to videos. On page xv, they introduce free access to This site is referenced throughout the book and offers helpful tools and engaging, entertaining videos. The book and the website also provide information about attending a VitalSmarts Training Course that teaches crucial conversation skills as well as offering additional materials to advance these skills.


Chapter 1 defines and illustrates what is a crucial conversation. The authors define a crucial conversation as one in which opinions vary, the stakes are high, and emotions run high. How these conversations are usually handled is presented. The authors state that their research has "shown that strong relationships, careers, organizations, and communities all draw from the same source of power-the ability to talk openly about high-stakes, emotional, controversial topics" (p. 9). Their "audacious claim" is that crucial conversations are the heart of most chronic problems and that most crucial conversations are either not being held or not done well.


Chapter 2 introduces the power of dialogue with examples and the idea of the Fool's Choice. They state that dialogue skills are learnable. The remainder of the book explores the tools people use to create conditions of dialogue. Chapter 3 looks at the "how" of dialogue. Clear examples are used to illustrate the key points of the chapter that are summarized at the chapter's end.


Chapter 4 discusses how to notice when safety during the conversation is at risk. Safety is when things in a conversation start to turn ugly. The reader learns to look for both the content being discussed and the responses from people in the conversation. Spotting a crucial conversation early in its development allows for identification of safety. Most people in an unsafe conversation revert to either silence or violence. To help the reader determine their style under stress, a survey is offered to help you see what tactics you typically revert to when caught in a crucial conversation. This information is the basis for the content in Chapter 5, Make it Safe.


How to make it safe to talk about almost anything is presented in Chapter 5. The goal in crucial conversations is to find a way that allows everyone mutual purpose and to enjoy mutual respect. Direct actions to address these goals are discussed and practice opportunities given. In some cases a mutual purpose needs to be created and four skills are presented to achieve this goal using the acronym CRIB. As in all chapters, a summary ends the chapter.


Chapter 6 is titled, Master My Stories: How to Stay in Dialogue When You're Angry, Scared or Hurt. The crux of this chapter is how to learn to gain control of crucial conversations by learning to take charge of your emotions. Figure 6.2 (p. 109) shows a path to action that illustrates how emotions, thoughts, and experiences lead to our actions. The remainder of the chapter offers skills for mastering our stories. An excellent summary of skills and actions to take to master your stories ends the chapter. Chapter 7 focuses on how to speak persuasively, not abrasively. The reader is introduced to five skills that can help anyone speak about sensitive topics. The acronym STATE helps ready the skills. The first three skills describe what to do, and the last two focus on how to do it. Interesting stories illustrating the points being made draw the reader in and make you want to see what happens and how the situation is handled. There is a helpful section on what to do if you have a strong belief, believe you are right and they are wrong, and begin to push too hard.


Chapter 8 discusses how and why to explore others' paths. The acronym AAMP helps the reader remember to Ask, Mirror, Paraphrase, or Prime. These skills are termed power listening tools. Numerous examples of questions to use to ask or mirror are given. How to restate or paraphrase the information is discussed. There is a very useful discussion of what is priming and when to use it. The chapter concludes with what to do if you disagree with what the other person said.


In most cases, crucial conversations occur with the goal of moving to action. Chapter 9 presents the four methods of decision making and how to choose which method to use at which time and how to avoid common mistakes. The final step is to put the decisions made into action. I like Chapter 10's title: Yeah, But. Seventeen tough cases are presented and discussed.


Chapter 11 is how to make all the ideas useable. The content provides tools for preparing and learning by using a model that helps you visually organize the seven dialogue principles. Finally, an example is provided where all dialogue principles are applied.


The Afterword presents what the authors have each learned over the 10 years. Each author discusses how they learned to use crucial conversations even if no results were seen initially. The book concludes with Endnotes, enabling further reference if desired.


I highly recommend this book. My friend was correct; it is a great way to learn to conduct crucial conversations and would be an excellent resource to use if you believe you may be engaging in a crucial conversation. I know of several colleges of nursing that use the Crucial Conversations book as part of the curriculum and have heard both new graduates and seasoned nurses indicate the useful content available in the book.


I suggest that both the DK Essential Manager books and Crucial Conversations are excellent resources for both new and seasoned nurses and leaders and recommend them. Although the content is of a different nature, both the series and the book will make working with colleagues better.