Conversation as Communication
Every conversation is an opportunity to delve deeper, be more innovative, reinforce values, explain strategic priorities, support, inspire, ask questions, provide information and advice, share history, and (most of all) listen.
The most widespread and pervasive development and learning no longer occurs in workshops, classrooms, conference rooms or boardrooms. It occurs over coffee, around the water cooler, in the corridors and the team’s kitchen. It is in emails, skype sessions, phone calls, instant messages, intranet-based groups and any internal social media applications. Every conversation is an opportunity to delve deeper, be more innovative, reinforce values, explain strategic priorities, support, inspire, ask questions, provide information and advice, share history, and (most of all) listen. Inquire about issues, approaches, opinions, experiences, obstacles. Spark a new insight, investigate a new perspective, explore an alternative path, suggest other sources of information. Offer feedback, seek feedback, ask advice. Make the person feel valued.
These continual conversations are as much a core strategic process as any other. Conversations catalyse action. Conversations tell you who is engaged, who is taking responsibility, who needs support, who enjoys which types of projects or tasks, common obstacles that need further attention and much much more. Conversation is a communication vehicle for sharing and refining thinking and practices.
Tools and physical layout can help conversations happen. However the greatest facilitator of conversations is a leader who is comfortable with strategic conversations, and who can role model them with staff. Some initial resources include Powerful Questions, Appreciative Inquiry, Deep Listening, and Coaching Skills. The culture that is created must be non-judgemental and performance focused, one that honours diverse perspectives, listening and reflection, exploration of underlying assumptions, and the joy of discovery.
Most importantly, the strong self awareness, authenticity, integrity and personal values of the leader are fundamental.