All Conversations are Equal.  But Some are More Equal than Others…

All Conversations are Equal. But Some are More Equal than Others…

Whilst the great George Orwell in this infamous line was making reference to political irony, and also an acknowledgement of the futility of absolutes, there is some irony in how we view the conversations in our workplaces.   There are conversations…and then there are conversations.   I tend to label conversations in three ways:   Personal Conversations – the chit-chat and banter that focuses on non-work-related topics.   Business Conversations – one- or two-way conversations that do not progress thinking or creativity but focus on sharing information or giving instruction.   Professional Conversations – deliberate and powerful conversations designed to challenge thinking, create shifts, discover truth, engage and motivate (amongst other great things).   These are all equal in that they can all claim to be conversations, but in terms of their impact from a leadership perspective, each of them is more equal than the one before.   Personal conversations are great for building rapport, for developing trust over time, and for providing essential ‘brain breaks’, when future focused and positive in nature.  These are important conversations to have, though are more intangible in their impact.   Business conversations are about instruction, information sharing and seeking to understand, and are a necessary part of everyday work. They make up a majority of work-related conversations in most organisations.  They are more equal than personal conversations in terms of tangible business impact.   Professional conversations are intentional, coaching style conversations, performed by skilled individuals, which facilitate quality thinking and accountability.  They are the most equal of business conversations in terms of useful impact.   Professional conversations are a skill you can learn, and require a level of mastery in:  
  • Understanding Human Motivation, including an understanding of the science of insight
  • Coaching skills and powerful questioning techniques
  • Capacity for mindful attention and tapping into intuition and non-verbals
  Here is an idea you can implement immediately (that means today) to have more Professional Conversations with your team.   We are all wired differently, and so cannot ever assume what someone else is thinking or how they process information.  Yet we do this all the time, preferring to see the end result from own needs and perspective.  Whilst this may be effective on the surface, in terms of motivation and accountability from the others involved, it falls short.   Shift your focus to letting others drive the direction and content of the conversation.  Gently nudge and challenge their thinking, always with an open mind.   You should be in control of the structure of the conversation, but if you are seeking input and quality thinking from others, then ask them what kind of conversation is needed. For example… ”We have to deliver this project by COB Friday, and we have 1 hour now to get our heads around it.  What will be the best use of this time for you? (they answer, and it’s important that they go first)…Great, what I need is to be really clear on what the final document will look like. (Don’t be afraid to state what you need).  Let’s figure out how to best spend this hour so we both get what we need.”   Find three opportunities today to do this.  Start to REWIRE the way you enter business conversations and meetings and look to see if the level of engagement and insight in the conversations starts to improve over time.   Have a great day.   Michelle   (If you want to learn to REWIRE the way you or your team has conversations, you might like to make contact, or attend one of my upcoming events.
Giving the Gift of your Attention in Conversations

Giving the Gift of your Attention in Conversations

My best friend from my childhood married much earlier than I, and had her second child around a year before I had my first.  After many years, we found ourselves in the same city and relished in the time we were again able to spend with each other.   They were those unique years when your children are young and you are in the cocoon of day care, kindy, and prep…spending time at parks, swimming lessons and a myriad of other activities designed to develop the social and physical skills of your kiddies.   We are two very different personalities – she the ever-calm and in-control introvert, and me the too-busy, everything must be done right now extravert.   But there was a moment I will never forget, that forever changed the way I now try to engage in conversation.   Her son was explaining ‘something’ and taking his distracted and typically six-year old time about it.  Me…I would have tried to hurry him up or get bored and make an assumption about what he wanted to say and finished his sentences for him.   But not my friend, she simply paused, looked him in straight in the eye, dipping slightly closer to his level, and waited for him to get it all out – and all with an encouraging and patient smile.   It is hard to explain but it was such a lovely and respectful moment.  She gave him the gift and respect of her complete attention – placing him squarely in a place of value and importance.   In that moment, of all the things competing for her attention, she chose to shine the light of her attention on him – and he shone.   From that time on, I have been so conscious, firstly with my children and family, and then to a wider audience, of the impact of my attention during conversations, and specifically during times of stress and rush.   What I have found is that not only does this have an amazingly positive impact on the recipient of my attention and their sense of self-worth, their ability to access their creative self, and their willingness to own their own stuff, but the value to me is enormous.   I see them more honestly, I listen better, I take the time to really understand them, and often my initial assumptions about what is going on with them are proven to be just that – assumptions – and I am much more able to be curious.   The ability to be curious is essential in building relationships, in getting to the truth, and in having conversations that count.   US psychologist, Dr Mark Holder, in his TED Talk suggests that there are three words that can literally change your life.  They are…   “Tell me more…”   or another three   “What happened next…”   This week’s conversation challenge is to tune in to when you are, and are not, giving your attention in a useful and respectful way.   Have a great day!   Michelle