Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

Success Story: Emory University Uses Crucial Conversations to Resolve a Culture of Conflict

The Challenge
Something was missing. That’s what Wanda Hayes determined when she sought input from the faculty and staff of Emory University after arriving as the university’s new director of learning and organizational development. She was looking to enhance the university’s training offerings, and one topic kept coming up.

“I talked with a lot of our key stakeholders and it was clear people wanted more around conflict management,” she says. A formal needs assessment survey yielded the same result. So did feedback about an existing leadership program run in partnership with the university’s highly ranked business school.

“At every level, people said conflict management is what we need,” Hayes remembers. So she and her team started looking for a training component to add to the management and leadership development programs and to anchor the new general education curriculum they would soon launch.

Human resource staffers had used VitalSmarts Crucial Conversations Training at a previous healthcare employer and Hayes was pleased to bring the course to Emory University. “There are a couple of things that make Crucial Conversations stand out more than others,” she says. “It’s very action-oriented, not just information about conflict. And there’s a lot of skill practice in a safe environment.”

She was also impressed that the content, while hitting conflict management head on, doesn’t stop there. It was a perfect companion to the university’s year-long training program for new and experienced managers and supervisors, which covers setting objectives, performance reviews, performance problems, collaborating, and holding others accountable.
“Crucial Conversations addresses all of those topics, teaching people how to have effective conversations, stay engaged, and get results,” she says.

Emory began including the course in the new Manager and Supervisor Development Programs, then proceeded to roll out additional programs that included Crucial Conversations for administrative professionals. Later, Crucial Conversations was added to the existing leadership program for high-potential, high-level administrative staff. Ultimately, it was also included in a new year-long leadership program for faculty leaders. The course has become a cornerstone for programs that are designed for intact teams, as well as for general enrollment.
To build excitement for the new offering, the university brought in Crucial Conversations coauthor Ron McMillan, who conducted separate sessions with senior leaders across campus, human resource leaders, and faculty leaders.

With the course embedded in the University’s learning offerings, three members of Hayes’ team were certified to deliver the training. They teach the two-day course with seven to ten days in between to practice and complete assignments. By the end of 2012, close to 1,000 Emory employees had completed Crucial Conversations.

The Results
Read our case study to learn how Wanda Hayes used Crucial Conversations Training to increase employees’ and managers’ ability to better manage conflict, hold the right conversations, and get the right results.

Develop Your Crucial Skills

Image for

What's Your Style Under Stress?

Discover your dialogue strengths and weaknesses with this short assessment.

Take Assessment

Image for

Subscribe Now

Subscribe to the newsletter and get our best insights and tips every Wednesday.


Image for

Ask a Question

From stubborn habits to difficult people to monumental changes, we can help.

Ask a Question

1 thought

  1. Priyanka

    Impressive success story. I think Crucial Conversations is a breakthrough program at developing skills and delivering measurable results.

Leave a Reply

Get your copies
The ideas and insights expressed on Crucial Skills hail from five New York Times bestsellers.


Take advantage of our free, award-winning newsletter—delivered straight to your inbox