Monday, January 7, 2013

Stop talking and get to work! But isn’t talking a central part of my job?



When I am asked what I do for a job I often say I listen and talk, I have lots of conversations with lots of people. Yet so many times I find myself in situations where I hear managers say “oh they are talking too much”; “I don’t have time to go and talk to them, I will send an email”; “all they did at the meeting was talk”.

So is talking and conversations the same thing? I wonder if the reason why people don’t consider talking as work is because they are not able to define the distinctions between the various types of  ‘talk’ or ‘conversations’ we have and the results they can produce. In today’s world the most important work in the knowledge economy is our ability to have effective conversations.  Nonetheless I continue to be amazed at how many people don’t realise the importance and value that conversations have in the workplace. Organisational structures, systems, processes, hierarchy, technology, geographical distance are just a few of the barriers that can cause people to not have effective conversations with each other.
However, as a leader I argue your role is to create an environment where people see that the only way work gets done in an organisation is through conversations. All the barriers that are put up as reasons why people don’t talk to each other are can equally be enablers if you choose to observe them from a different perspective.

A key component of the leadership development programs Anne Courtney http://www.windingstaircase.com.au/?page=72#anne and I run, is to expose people to the notion that organisations are a series of conversations, and that work gets done through conversations and relationships. A model we use to illustrate this point is the “Conversations Model” © Newfield Institute that argues there are primarily three groups of conversations. They include conversations for:

  1. Connection and intimacy - in relationship with others, these are the conversations for connection e.g. “How was your weekend?” 
  2. Shared Understanding - trying to be understood and understand in order to make plans and decisions e.g.  Oh so you mean X …Ok let’s call them” 
  3. Coordinating Action - getting things done through making agreements about who will do what by when e.g. “Ok so I will call Ken and arrange a time to collect A…”
As leaders it is essential that we develop our conversational skills so that we achieve organisational objectives. In summary, effective conversations in the workplace enable us to accomplish:

·         clarity and shared understanding,
·         possibility (including new ideas and new ways of thinking),
·         agreement and commitment,
·         strategic direction,
·         cooperation, coordination and collaboration,
·         improved relationships, and
·         desired outcomes

Reflect for a minute on where you think you strengths or limitations apply in terms of these purposes for conversations. For a further conversation on “conversations” contact [email protected]

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