It’s a question often echoed in training rooms around the world as leaders and professional from all variations of industry work to master a new approach to communication through VitalSmarts’ Crucial Conversations training. 

“The ability to talk to almost anyone about almost anything!”

It’s a powerful tag line and one that Vital Smarts delivers on as their curriculum is currently being used in 300 of the Fortune 500 companies, in countries around the world and now….for the first time ever…at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga through the Center for Professional Education. 

Through a strategic partnership with VitalSmarts, the Center for Professional Education (CPE) is able to deliver this training to organizations of all sizes who previously would not have had access to the material. It’s a unique partnership for VitalSmarts as they typically only allow their products to be licensed within individual companies. Their educational partnership with UTC is somewhat different in that the CPE is allowed the market the course and make it available to companies across the region and even the nation. 

Now the CPE is breaking new ground once again as they take this proven, well research program from the business world and apply it to the realities of the non-profit social services sector.  

CPE Assistant Director Ginger Duggan expands on the idea as she explains the approach. “We know that Crucial Conversations is effective. Sound research and a proven track record show us that. But it’s not just about the corporate clients. It’s also about creating opportunities for the CPE to provide services for those professionals who have great need for the skills but not access to the training. We want to eliminate these barriers as we find ways to create engagement and reach new audiences.” 

It sounds ambitious, yet they are doing just that. After careful research the CPE team uncovered a need within another state agency, the OCJP. Where the CPE had the training, the certifications, the instructor and the materials, OCJP had the staff in need of a fresh approach to a common problem. Specifically for the directors and employees of Domestic Violence Shelters across the state of Tennessee to enhance their communication skills. 

“These individuals are highly skilled and highly dedicated,” adds John Freeze, the Director of the Center for Professional Education. “Yet every single day they are dealing with conversation after conversation that has the potential to become crucial at any moment. We recognize this need and are thrilled to help them gain new skills and insights as they work to balance the needs of both their internal and external customers.”

This partnership not only extends past the reach of UTC, but it also clearly demonstrates the CPE’s ability to customize their approach to fit the unique needs of the customer.

“As we prepared to launch this series of courses we really took the time to understand the true time needs of the employees involved.” Carrie Woods, the VitalSmarts Certified Instructor for CPE talked excitedly about the partnership and its nuances. “It was extremely interesting to learn that yes they did face some unique conversations due to their roles, but they also balanced that with some of the same day to day issues we find in our corporate clients. Teamwork, communication, clarity and accountability….these are all things professionals face at work regardless of what logo happens to be on the wall.”

It is clear talking with this group that they are excited about the possibilities this partnership brings. 

“Just look at the reach.” Points out Ginger. “We already have programs running from February through May of 2019 and covering over half of the geography of Tennessee. And those are only the OCJP sessions.”

“It’s all about giving our participants the ability to take action and find success.” Carrie adds. “Professional education is very different. For us, it’s not about the end goal of the course credit or the degree, instead it is about helping individuals find success. It’s about giving them tools and techniques they can apply today that have the power to generate immediate results. And Crucial Conversations has the ability to do just that.”

The CPE is certainly making a name for itself. Not just with the OCJP grant, but also with the closer relationships and clear results they are generating within professionals and organizations throughout the region. 

“We strive to offer our clients the best possible solutions for their biggest obstacles.” Sums up Director Freeze, and the statement seems to fit. It may be that OCJP is just the beginning. We should all be excited to see what comes next. 

Providing effective solutions to real world problems. It sounds simple and yet complex all at the same time. At the CPE they look forwarding to tackling those issues step by step as they work to not just provide those solutions but build them, and given their clients answers that matter when they need it most.