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The Principal as Leader of Challenging Conversations

The Principal as Leader of Challenging Conversations

February 2011 | 160 pages | Corwin
Direct difficult discussions toward successful outcomes every time!

For every headteacher who has ever wished for a quick reference guide to keeping challenging conversations on course, the ideal tool is here! Inside are all the skills you need for navigating high-stakes interactions with staff, parents, students, and district leaders and steering them toward win-win solutions. Case studies throughout the book identify the risk areas and provide the steps to mastering techniques for:

- Active listening

- Assertive communication

- Providing effective feedback

- Staying calm

- Problem solving

- Mediation.

Also included are scripts, sample dialogues, style inventories, checklists, and resources for practicing skills learned from the case studies. Like having a communications coach in your back pocket, this guide gives tips for building a collaborative culture focused on what matters most—working together to achieve student success.

The Goal- Meeting the Challenge

Organization of the Book and Special Features

Who Will Benefit?

1. Introduction – Dimensions of Challenging Conversations
What is a Challenging Conversation?

Chat, Challenge and Crisis

Challenging Conversations - Sources of Challenge

Factors That Determine a Challenging Conversation

Crisis or Challenge

You, Your Community and Challenging Conversations

Challenging Conversations - Core Concepts

Power and Influence

Why Have Challenging Conversations – Some Good Reasons to Talk

Why We Avoid Challenging Conversations

Challenging Conversations and a Collaborative School Culture


Book Study Questions

Case Study Practice – The Principal and the Bully

Your Personal Case Study

2. Engaging in Challenging Conversations
A Framework for Conversations That Matter

Engaging in Challenging Conversations – Principles

Engaging in Challenging Conversations - The Critical Path


Book Study Questions

Case Study Practice – Cleaning Up

Your Personal Case Study – First Reflection

3. Listening for Meaning
Why Should We Listen? The Case for Active Listening

Active Listening

Non-Verbal Communication



Book Study Questions

Case Study Practice

Your Personal Case Study – Second Reflection

4. Providing Effective Feedback
Elements of Effective Feedback

Barriers to Providing Effective Feedback


Book Study Questions

Case Study Practice

Your Personal Case Study – Third Reflection

5. Being Assertive
“Be hard on the problem, soft on the people”

Being Assertive- Techniques


Book Study Questions

Case Study Practice

Your Personal Case Study – Fourth Reflection

6. Managing Anger: Yours and Theirs
What Bugs Me? - Different Things Bother Different People Differently at Different Times

Some Approaches to Anger


Book Study Questions

Case Study Practice

Your Personal Case Study – Fifth Reflection

7. How Do You Respond to Challenging Conversations?
Your Conversational/Conflict Style – Who are You?

Conversational Strategies – Choices that We Can Make

Factors that Affect Strategy Choice


Book Study Questions

Case Study Practice

Your Personal Case Study – Final Reflection

8. The School Leader as Mediator - Facilitating the Conversations of Others
Why Get Involved?

The Mediation Process – Facilitating Conversations


The Opening Phase

Resolution Phase

Closing Phase

The Promise of Mediation


Book Study Questions

Case Study Practice

Summary – Key Concepts to Remember
References and Suggested Readings

"The last thing a principal needs is more stress! The contents of this book will help build skills that will ensure that challenging conversations go the way they should—toward resolution and peace."

Beth Madison, Principal
George Middle School, Portland, Oregon

"This work will contribute to future administrators' success as they learn effective communication strategies for handling daily challenges and difficult situations."

Catherine Alaimo Stickney, Curriculum Coordinator
Ashland Public Schools, MA
Key features
  • Case studies throughout the book illustrate specific concepts and skills while end of chapter case studies give readers the opportunity for the reader to analyze individually or with colleagues. In the Resources section of the book suggested approaches for these case studies will be provided. As the reader compares his response to the case study to the suggested approach, it will feel like being coached through a challenging conversation. A running personal case study beginning in chapter one provides further opportunity for reflection and practice.
  • Organized around skills that make a difference, the book shows how to use active listening, assertive communication, providing effective feedback, and managing anger in order to effectively engage in challenging conversations.
  • Scripts/sample dialogues, style inventories, and skills checklists included throughout the book and in a practical resources section at the back of the book provide tools for understanding and implementing skills in practice.

Purchasing options

Volume Discounts Available

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ISBN: 9781412981156

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