“A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue.
That’s why there are so few good conversations:
due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.”
At its core, leadership is about conversations. As a leader, the quality of the conversations that you have with your team, and those in your business circle, determines your outcome as a leader. If you have effective conversations, both parties involved feel heard, and both parties have their needs understood and met. Conversely, if the conversation is not effective, then the results are less than expected or desired all around. As a leader you have more influence than you may realize on how to craft effective conversations.
Conversations are more than just words. They are also moods and emotions and they are somatic (of the body) in nature. Think about it, have you ever gone into a conversation with someone when you were in a bad mood? What was the outcome? My bet is that many times the conversation did not go well, and you may have left the conversation in an even worse mood. Where do those moods live? They live in the body. In future posts we will look at this aspect of leadership but for now, think about it, have you ever experienced a boss or co-worker who stormed in and you could tell from that moment it was not going to be a pleasant conversation? That is the body in action.
So what are the three conversations of a leader and how do you know which ones you are having?
Effective Conversations: On the surface effective conversations are easy to spot. They lead to results that are in alignment with what the speaker wants. Dig a little deeper though and you will see that effective conversations are more than just immediate results. Truly effective conversations also lead to positive side effects. Effective conversations lead to positive moods and emotions, and both parties walk away from the conversation feeling heard and empowered to create a positive future. Both sides feel a bit lighter and energized in their bodies. Even if the topic of the conversation is a difficult subject, it should be hard on the problem and easy on the people involved. Ultimately, effective conversations lead to positive steps taken into the future in alignment with the needs of both sides of the conversation.
Ineffective Conversations: Ineffective conversations may be more difficult for a leader to spot. This happens when the leader only focuses on their needs and concerns, and although the leader may walk away feeling that it was a good conversation the other participants walk away not feeling heard and in moods and emotions that are less than motivating. An example of this is the “good ol’ ass chewing” conversation. The leader comes in and is going to knock some heads around and let people know how he or she feels. The leader may feel this is a righteous attempt to motivate people (and feel good momentarily while they let them have it!), but it plants seeds of resentment and resignation and in the long term limits the effectiveness of the team or the organization.
Missing Conversations: The first type of missing conversations are the ones we as leaders know need to happen but do not initiate. For example, we have all seen inappropriate behaviors by individuals on our teams that we did not have a conversation around. Although we might have reasoned our way out of the need for that conversation, what we did by our avoidance was to reinforce the inappropriate behaviors. The second, and worst case are conversations that we are blind to, that we do not realize are necessary. This is due to a lack of intuition and sensitivity about what conversations are going on among our team members without us. Because of our inaccessibility due to our own moods and emotions, and perhaps because we are presenting a closed body, the conversation never reaches us.
Think about yourself as a leader. Do you regularly get members of your team giving you feedback on how you are performing as a leader? Do you actually seek out the conversations that you are blind to? This requires real leadership, and specific steps we will explore in more detail in future blogs.
So which of the three conversations of a leader are you practicing? My assessment is all three. I want to challenge you to learn and master how to have effective conversations, and seek out those missing conversations; after all, it’s only your career and future at stake.