Life doesn’t always need a framework. Actually, in most cases, implementing one equals artificiality and an approach that is very formal. This is associated more with corporates, heavy industry or science where doing things ‘by the book’ is most common.
These were also my initial thoughts when I first heard of F.U.E.L. during a workshop in New York led by Jason Gore and Michael Costuros from Neuberg Gore & Associates. I was skeptical, also through first practical conversations done using this conversational framework.
It all changed once I’ve seen that it actually works, and it works great. Since then, as a management Team, we have used it on many occasions for challenging discussions.
While it’s not enough just to ‘read’ about the F.U.E.L. method to really feel it, as you need practice, I decided to write this article for you to get a general understanding of what F.U.E.L. consists of. I hope that with this knowledge you’d like to explore more. I’m also happy to help you & your Team, in the form of a workshop, to implement this way of thinking in your organization.
F.U.E.L. is an abbreviation for Framing conversation, Understanding each-other, Exploring options and Leading to commitments. In order to solve your challenge effectively, complete a difficult discussion, you should follow 4 steps of this process.
You start with Framing the conversation. Name precisely what is the reason and goal for the conversation. Make sure all participants understand it, write it down. It’s especially important as people naturally tend to digress from a topic. Having the ‘frame’ in place helps getting back on track.
Once you agree exactly what is it that you’re discussing, try your best to Understand each others’ worlds. It’s essential for finding a solution later on, but before you jump to any conclusions, you need the deeper understanding first. You know your point of view well, so here focus ONLY on doing all you possibly can to understand how others feel.
Once you believe that the ‘worlds are understood’, you’re moving to Exploring options. Key here is that you’re still in the ‘exploration’ mode, not ‘problem solving by propositions’. Use phrases like “What would you say about if we solve this by X” rather than “Ok, so I see that X is a great solution”. Be open, stay curious, paraphrase for mutual understanding.
Once you have explored available options, be sure to Lead to commitments. End the meeting with a clear WHO, WHAT, by WHEN and write these down. Think that a commitment not agreed to and written down is never a hard commitment. It’s a soft commitment that may be hard to follow in time.
There is a very useful handout prepared and made available by the Neuberg Gore & Associates that takes you step by step through the F.U.E.L. method depending on the context of the situation you’re using it in.
With this help, and a bit of practice, you can use F.U.E.L. for
- Influence & Problem-Solving
- Group Decision-Making
- Conflict Resolution
- Negative Feedback
- Holding People Accountable
- Repairing Trust (Cleanups)
- Role Underperformance
- Letting Someone Go (see my article on Managing People Out)
It’s one of the most powerful management tools I’ve ever used. Master it, practice, learn and pay it forward. Once you’ve used it a few times, you’ll soon realize how meaningful and effective your challenging conversations will become.
Happy to hear your thoughts on this idea, please share them ideally under this LinkedIn article.
Founder of SaunaGrow.com
We meet in a Sauna and Talk Business.
PS I could not resist. The real FUEL ;)