Leadership Conversation — How to make bold change, one conversation at a time.

March 28, 2023
6 min read
Nick Fewings on Unsplash
“Some of the most important conversations, are the ones you have with yourself.”
— Rose Fass
Join us as we celebrate the remarkable significance of Women's History Month and feature a variety of articles from our women leaders.

Change happens. It happens all the time. It happens all around us. 

In her second book, The Leadership Conversation, Rose Fass follows up her debut book, The Chocolate Conversation, by examining how effective leaders make bold change, one conversation at a time.

To launch the book, she joined Michal Flanagan for a LinkedIn webcast. As well as discussing the book, Rose enjoyed receiving questions from everyone who was able to join her in the live audience. We’re delighted to reproduce a small selection of those questions here, along with Rose’s answers.

Thanks again to everyone who was able to be a part of the event. Miss the event? You can watch the recording here. 

“Can you let us know what are the top three takeaways you would select from your book?”

The first is to know how to unpack a chocolate conversation. A big takeaway for people is to know how to recognize them, and how to unpack them.

The second is how to work in three spheres: the technical, the social and political. Our technical expertise, our social networks and our political standing. I don't mean politicking, I mean our political standing, our ability to position things to be both credible, likable, and plausible. Those things are very important. (If you’re unsure of where you fall in the three spheres, take our free conversation survey.) 

The third one is, how can you have a civil discourse and not necessarily agree with the popular opinion? Can you turn conflict into a civil conversation? Major takeaway, keep it civil. 

My father used to say, if you have to shout, you can't stand up to your side of the argument. 

I never forgot it. I think being passionate is wonderful. I'm a very passionate person and I love when people show emotion and passion. When it turns into anger, there's something else going on. It's not just the other person having a different opinion. It's something attacking something very personal in you.

That's when we have to ask for a pause, get some level bodies, lower the temperature a little, bring the decibels down and recognize if I'm shouting and talking over someone, I've left the conversation. I'm no longer engaged. I'm having a dueling monologue, not a conversation.

“Do you have thoughts or actionable advice on managing and crafting message clarity for the teams when there is often so much message ambiguity.”

My co-founder at fassforward, Gavin McMahon, has spent a lot of time in this area in what he calls the art of storytelling.

The ability to build a narrative with all the technical, social, and political aspects covered. That creates three elements: a hook -- something that invites people into the discussion, the meat -- substantive, absolute evidence that supports your premise, and finally a payoff -- which allows people to see what's in it for them. 

Often if you look at conversations, whether they're happening in a PowerPoint deck or happening in an exchange between people, we jump right into the meat. 

They don't open up with any kind of a hook or an attempt to bring people into the conversation. And then there's no real payoff.

Think about what's going to be the one or two sentences that invite somebody into this conversation. What's going to draw them in?

Be substantive. Make sure you have the right facts and evidence and data to support your premises or hypotheses. Remember what's in it for the person who is engaged with you. That's the way to craft a good message. 

“How can we, as leaders, influence executives to be more deliberate about framing conversations?”

One of the things I find is when you want to get an executive to think differently, you don't start with what they're not doing right. Start instead with what they're doing that's really making a difference. 

That opens the conversation up to have a dry run; to have a little bit of back and forth and to ask what it is they want to get across.

We also need to be asking how we connect and make things relatable to the people we're talking about. We need to be thinking about how we position something so that it feels like an easy transition from where we are today to where we want to go. 

We have to connect a lot of dots in these conversations.

It’s lonely being an executive. Many executives don't have someone to think with. When you offer to think with somebody and you do it in the right way, they welcome it.

We don’t take that risk though because we're so afraid that if we go in and offer our help, it's going to be rejected. Always start with something really positive that gives that executive the opportunity to say, “Hey, this person really cares, wants to talk with me, wants to help me. I'm in.”

“What inspired you to write these books. Did it energize you or exhaust you?”

A little of both. It was exhausting, but I was energized every time I finished a chapter. Every time I read it back, I realized I had memorialized someone or something that mattered to me in my life. 

I've had wonderful mentors in my life, wonderful experiences. Writing that 50 year conversation was like a memoir. I got to write about men and women who had an impact on my life, some of whom are not here anymore, but they left an indelible mark behind them.

For me, to be able to share those stories with people coming into this leadership world in this new generation, it just might shed light on what it means to have those kind of mentors and those kind of conversations.

So sometimes exhausting. Sometimes energizing. It's a paradox.

You can hear a recording of the the leadership conversation between Rose, Michael, and their audience by clicking here.

Hungry for more? Order your copy of The Leadership Conversation on Amazon or read more about Rose and her new book on the leadershipconversationbook.com.

You can also snag a copy of her first book, The Chocolate Conversation.

Rose Fass is a founder and CEO of fassforward consulting group. She has the unique gift to take a mess, and quickly put in place effective steps to reach an outcome. She is a natural facilitator who can connect with all types of individuals at all levels of an organization from the C-suite to people closest to the work.

Michael Flanagan is an Executive Advisor and Facilitator with fassforward. Michael has a deep Organization Effectiveness background and he facilitates both live and online learning experiences on a wide range of topics including, leadership development, presentation skills, critical thinking and change management.

Peter Watts is a Senior Instructional Designer and Facilitator. He works on both fassforward's Live, Live/online and tailored programs. Peter is fassforward's lead instructional designer for Live/online experiences which deliver mission-critical leadership and communications training, globally, at scale.

Eugene Yoon is a graphic designer and illustrator at fassforward. She is a crafter of Visual Logic. Eugene is multifaceted and works on various types of projects, including but not limited to product design, UX and web design, data visualization, print design, advertising, and presentation design.

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