Remember the last time you were engrossed in a conversation? Conversation where real issues were discussed! Conversations that were authentic! Conversations that were value adding! Conversations that made time stand still! Conversations that made things happen! Conversations that got continued! These are the conversations that make great teams.
In my blog post on the 7th of May 2014 titled ‘How Great is Your Team?’ I promised to go into details of the 11 different aspects that make a great team. The first seven aspects regarding ‘Burning Platforms’, ‘Team Alignment Around Critical Goals’, ‘Does your Team have Clearly Agreed way of Working?’ ‘A Great Decision-Making Process for a Great Team’, ‘Information Flow is Encouraged’, ‘Great Leaders don’t Mince their Words’ and ‘Positive Crisis’ have already been posted in this blog. Here is the 8th installment regarding the 8th aspect; ‘Great Conversation’.
Great conversations do not include nonsense and have no mask to hide the ugly truth. Conversations are authentic, not fake or dormant.
Fake conversations are conversations where people may say one thing but mean some thing else. When they don’t want to say that a proposal is not workable, they may say: this needs board approval. Then it goes in to a black hole never to appear again. When you check with them you are told: I haven’t heard from the board, let me check again. Nothing happens and this ritual may go on month on month. Why is this? Is it because they don’t want to give you the bad news? Is it because they don’t have the courage to give you honest feedback? Whatever the reason is, such conversations are detrimental to great teamwork.
Dormant conversations are when everyone see the ‘Elephant in the Room’ but don’t want to talk about it. Everyone knows that sales are poor because people are de-motivated due to the salary issue. No one wants to talk about it, but will give other reasons to hide the real reason. The competitors have a good promotion going on! Customers are migrating! Suppliers delivered poor quality raw material! Why do we have such dormant conversations? Is it because we don’t want to rock the boat? Is it because we don’t want retribution by upsetting the powers? Is it because such conversations are not encouraged or even made taboo to talk about? Whatever the reason is, such conversations are detrimental to great teamwork.
Great conversations start with great questions. Great conversations deal with adaptive (behavioural) issues such as trust, relationships, conflicts, silos, information flow, stress, motivation etc., which do not get normally discussed. They encourage people to open up. They encourage people to show their emotions. They encourage people to challenge assumptions. They encourage people to deal with the issues affecting the organisation with honesty and courage.
Examples of great conversations include:
- What was our biggest success this quarter? What did we learn from it? How do we use it in the next quarter?
- What was our biggest failure this quarter? What did we learn from it? How do we use it in the next quarter?
- What is the biggest swing we intend taking as a team in the next quarter?
Such conversations clearly define the swing, leads to detailed plans, resources get committed and action gets initiated. Why are such conversations productive? Is it because it helps people feel real? Is it because they help people open up? Is it because it helps people be heard? Is it because it gives an avenue for real issues to get discussed?
Great conversations create engagement, great conversations create winning corporate cultures, great conversations need courage and great leaders encourage great conversations!