As you will understand from Tim Dalmau’s brief video introduction, relationships are essential to conversations and powerful conversations are essential to engender alignment, commitment, ownership, productivity and creativity. In our consulting practices, we view ourselves as being companions and guides to leaders in designing and convening powerful conversations at the individual, team and organizational level.
In setting the broad context for the importance of conversation, I want to answer the most frequent refrain I hear in almost every organization or training program:
“How do you deal with a culture that doesn’t value the time needed for conversation”?
My answer is simple. Disregard the importance of conversation at your own peril. Just look at the results of organizations that operate from the perspective that conversations are too time consuming or a luxury and compare them to the results of those organizations that operate with conversations as a central pillar of their culture and strategy.
We can look to many sources of research that make the case. I would start with the work reported on in Built to Last by Collins and Porras. This seminal book identified the core practices of companies that truly model sustainability – those that have been successful for over 50 years (now 70 years plus). These were compared to similar companies that were not identified as visionary companies.
Collins and Porras identified 10 core principles that distinguished the visionary companies from their comparison companies. One of these 10 principles speaks directly to the importance of powerful conversations – Cult-Like Cultures. In addition, when you study these visionary companies in depth – companies like GE, you realize that communication and conversation are central to their ways of being and operating.
Powerful conversation at all levels of an organization creates sustained results. It is that simple.
Over the next many months we intend to explore several areas in depth. Some of these topics include:
- Leaders as conversationalists.
- When does a leader need to convene a conversation versus just make the decision?
- What types of conversations can occur and what are the unique benefits of each type?
- What processes can be used to assure powerful conversations?
- What are the essential skills needed to convene and facilitate powerful conversations?
- What are the prerequisites for powerful conversations?
- How can we have the difficult conversations about inequities and race?
- Three ways to establish an authentic conversation.
Rummler and Brache put succinctly: “Dialogue, which strives to build understanding among group members, takes time. Everything else takes more time.”