Independent Thinking Blog

The Problem with Chocolate Conversations

Quick Poll: What’s your favorite kind of chocolate?

Ask three people about chocolate and you are likely to get at least three different answers. Hazelnut truffles, cherry bonbons, Hershey’s kisses, bittersweet hot fudge. (The hot fudge is for me.)

A new book makes the argument that many business conversations are like death by chocolate: People aren’t having the same conversation. Their starting points are different, their goal posts are in different places, they’re operating under different assumptions and different rules, and the things that keep them up at night rarely mesh. So is it any wonder that running a successful business is so hard?

In The Chocolate Conversation, author Rose Fass talks about “unwrapping” chocolate conversations–with employees, with partners, with customers–and discusses a process for having productive conversations that put everyone on the same page based on shared values and shared goals. For example, in a chapter entitled “Why Do Good People Have Bad Conversations?” she asks:

“Why can’t good people get in a room, have the tough conversations, and work to find a solution? … How do you negotiate a win-win in these situations? It helps to start with the concerns. If you can get people’s fears on the table and address them, you can do a bottoms-up negotiation to the standards that would help alleviate the concerns.”

And, in “Extending Your Reach,” Fass talks about the three components to almost every business situation:

It doesn’t matter if you are applying for a job or are implementing a strategy for a multibillion-dollar company: at every level of business, the technical, social, and political components are key parts of doing your job well… People who remain blind to them are often baffled when others who are less technically qualified move ahead of them–and they are left wondering why.”

What I like about The Chocolate Conversation is that the book is filled with examples of companies (and corporate leaders) who have reframed their conversations to achieve business success. While so many books focus on profit and loss, Fass focuses on people. After all, companies can make promises–but it is up to people to deliver. And this requires holding common conversations and communicating well.

Photo by Marco Molino (Flickr).

*Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Chocolate Conversation in exchange for agreeing to review it–but without any restrictions on what I might say.

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