Closure conversations can be used at anytime, they don’t have to be used only at the end of a project or an accomplishment. Jason, a hospital administrator in a Columbus hospital, used a closure conversation at the beginning of his interviews for a new job at a different hospital to reduce anxiety and address an issue he was sure was on everyone’s mind – that his former boss as the one hiring him. Here is what he told us about it:
I recently interviewed for a director position in a hospital in which the position was newly created and reports to someone (Linda) I had once worked for in my current organization. Since I had never held a director’s position before, I expected people at the hospital where I was interviewing would be understandably curious about my relationship with Linda and how it would affect them.
I had one interview with a panel of 14 front line managers. I knew that this would be the most difficult of the interviews, as they have difficult positions and are typically pulled between front line staff and administration. I assumed that my presence would evoke doubt and worry because of my relationship with Linda. I felt that acknowledging this up front might alleviate some of the anxiety the panel felt as well as the anxiety I felt in the interview process. Even though I had never officially met any of these individuals before, I felt that having a closure conversation and was appropriate. The following is a synopsis of how it went:
Panel Member: What do you think some of your initial challenges will be?
Me: Well, of course getting to know the system. But I imagine that my first challenge will be perceptual.
Panel Member: What do you mean by that?
Me: Well, I know from the interview process that you all have had a year of great changes. I know that Linda is relatively new, and has brought in many new people. I know the position I applied for is new to the organization. I also know that you have read my CV, I am sure it took you about 3 seconds to realize that I worked for Linda in the past. So here I am, in a new position to the organization that was created by my old boss. I am sure that I will be viewed as Linda’s boy.
Me: By the way you guys responded to that, I can tell that many of you have thought that. I get it. That is okay. You will not trust me at first, nor should you. It is not because I am not trustworthy; it is that you don’t know me yet. This is where the perceptual challenge comes in. It will be up to me to prove myself to you through my actions that I am worthy of this position and this job.
Panel Member: Thank you for saying that. You are very astute. I will admit that I came here with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder because that is EXCATLY what I thought. Now I can let go of it. This will be fine, and you will be fine. That is all I needed to know.
The conversation was much easier from there. The interview was more conversational than adversarial. We shared ideas about projects we were all working on in our environments, and the managers were able to open up to me more. Even though I had never met these people, I think opening with the closure conversation was important. The result was that the interview was much easier and I feel more confident in building new relationships with these managers. More importantly, since the tension was taken out of the initial meeting, I was able to learn more about the organization and the team dynamics so that I could come to a more informed employment decision.
I used this pattern of conversation in other interviews during the process and each time I got similar results.
Incidentally, I was offered the job.
Although Jason only used one of the 4-A’s of a closure conversation (he used acknowledgement), it was all he needed at this point. By acknowledging his relationship with Linda could be an issue and that he needed to earn their trust, Jason diffused a potential obstacle to his having an effective working relationship with the 14 front line managers. He also made it clear that he was aware of what they were probably thinking and that he was not going to run away from it or pretend it didn’t exist or matter. By being straight and acknowledging what was there, Jason made it easier for people to interact with him.
Good job Jason!