In part one of this three part series on ‘Daring to Dialogue’ we looked at five types of conversations.
- Skillful Conversation
In the second part of this series, I will be going through examples of each of these types of conversations with you, and what these types of conversations accomplish.
Are you ready for change to happen? Dare to dialogue!
The Monologue Conversation: an Example
When we sail with my daughter, we are very clear about communication expectations.Once we leave the dock and we’re under sail, we expect all instructions that we give to be followed. We do not expect a conversation, no pushback, just compliance with instructions. It’s not a space for discussion or dialogue, it is a monologue.
Now, my daughter is 12 years old and she is a master at debate. When we established this agreement with her, she had some questions and pushback. What we did is we slowed down enough to have that conversation with her and to create space for her to push back and also for us to offer our perspective about why.
The outcome of this conversation was that we all arrived at a deeper understanding of what was needed from each of us once we were underway, but once we were underway, it’s monologue.
The Dialogue Conversation: an Example
Now, let’s look next at an example where dialogue is the most effective approach.
Katherine is an executive I work with. She has been actively working to bring more dialogue into how she leads. And before we met, she operated in a very closed system. She told people what she wanted them to do and sent them on their way.
She has a really big and bold vision for the future of her company and she has learned the value and impact of asking people to participate in co-creating that with her. Recently she said to me, “We are really grappling with what our culture will look like post-pandemic.” Two months ago, she held a very definitive view of what she thought culture would and should look like, but now, after holding a number of dialogues on the topic, her thinking is really different and it’s changed.
This is what was so striking to me, because I truly believe that dialogue is where change happens, and what matters is that she’s wrestling with this question that has no easy answer. There is no one solution. It’s not a question like what color should we paint the walls or should we have offices or open spaces, this is a complex dynamic question that encompasses many moving parts with lots of uncertainty and things like, how do we want to interact? How will agility support us? What’s the best way to collaborate moving forward? She’s now leading her team through a co-created process to imagine what their culture, what they want their culture to look like in a post-pandemic world. And this includes carving out time and space to have continued dialogue and their culture will be so much more effective and innovative because of it.
Dialogue is Where We Gain Greater Insight and Agility
I don’t want you to get rid of all those conversational skills you have, but my goal is to stretch your thinking about the kinds of conversations you have and how you might expand your skillset to bring more dialogue when it matters.
While there’s a use for monologue and maybe even debate and discussion, what I’m proposing here is that dialogue is where we really move toward greater insight and agility, but it does require being intentional.
During every conversation we make a choice, it can be conscious or unconscious, but it is a choice about what kind of conversation we want to engage in. And when we choose to become curious, listening and asking questions, we are actively suspending our point of view in favor of hearing other points of view.
Groundhog Day Conversations
When we decide not to suspend, we are choosing to defend our position or point of view instead, and this leads to Groundhog Day conversations. Those are those conversations that you have over and over again.
- What conversations are you facing right now that might need more dialogue?
- Do you wonder what our work will look like after the pandemic?
- How will we be navigating change and transition moving forward?
- What does agile transformation look like for us?
- How can I engage and energize my team in this dispersed world?
- How will we bring more innovation into our organization?
If one of these conversations is what you need to have right now, you’ve come to the right place, because there are some common assumptions that makes dialogue less likely.
Here are examples of these common assumptions.
- I don’t have time right now
- I’ve got too much going on.
- Don’t bring me problems, just bring me the solutions.
- I’m right and they’re wrong.
- My view is the only valid view here, there is really no other way of looking at this.
- I’m the boss, it’s my job to decide.
We could’ve taken that route with my daughter (as her parents) about our sailing, but it would’ve been a slightly different outcome than the one we ended up with.
Assumptions block true dialogue and lead to defending, which again, leads to the Groundhog Day situation, which we don’t want to be in. And none of us want to be having the same conversation over and over again, and yet we do, it happens to all of us.
How Leaders Can Support More Dialogue
It’s for this reason, the most important activity of leaders, especially in the context of agility, is to create an environment that supports more dialogue and less monologue and debate.
It’s the approach that executives and leaders must cultivate if they actually want to create the change that they say they want to see.
Conversations, whether we are or aren’t having them and how we are having them are one of the greatest predictors of success. If we can learn to be more intentional in how we invite, cultivate, participate, and facilitate dialogue, there will not be any challenge or change that an organization cannot skillfully navigate to produce an effective outcome.
How does this work? Read part 3 of this series to learn more about what dialogue looks like in practice!
If you’d rather take 30 minutes and watch Marsha present, click here to watch a video!