Politics in the United States is providing us with a heightened sense of awareness about our differences. But these kinds of exchanges are not new, we’re just lately watching them on bigger screens.
Rich Conversations In The Workplace
How do we adapt and use these kinds of conversations in our workplace, day-to-day? Or for the teams that we serve? With a little proactive work, these are rich and valuable conversations that we can be fostering in our teams as well.
As team leaders or facilitators we’re helping teams daily to navigate conflict by finding the balance between inquiry and advocacy. Heineken’s video demonstrates some useful tools that we’ll break down for you further on in the post.
Let us just say this:
Laying the Groundwork and Engaging in Different Kinds of Conversations Does Take More Time!
The results for the team are richer understanding between team members, higher quality outcomes, and improved velocity.
What would that look like?
The same conversation that keeps happening at each meeting due to the same unresolved conflicts would be eliminated. The habit of not listening and talking past one another? Gone.
How about by talking with and listening to each other, team members will actually achieve the results you know you and your team are capable of producing? It is that satisfaction and achievement that builds momentum inside a group.
If you haven’t seen the video by now, definitely watch it before you move on to help identify how you might prepare your team for these kinds of conversations.
Lay the Groundwork for Rich Communication
In order to work with conflict, teams can’t just dive into the deep end of the pool. They need to spend time laying the groundwork. And, to be clear, laying the groundwork is not a one time task; it’s ongoing.
Here are some principles to keep in mind:
Get to know one another as people. We each have dreams, hopes, fears and challenges. When we put labels on people we start to view them as a concept or idea to be debated or defeated. When we take the time to know others as people first, rather than the label we’ve placed on them, it shifts our perspective.
Find Common Ground
- When we start by acknowledging the things that we are aligned with, then we can build from there.
- When we start from disagreement, it’s harder to find alignment and we become stuck in the back and forth nature of conflict: where one person “must be” right and the other “must be” wrong.
- When we can find common ground, even if is just a shared value, there is an energy created from alignment. The alignment can move the conversation forward with more depth and meaning.
Work Together on a Task
When teams come together they need a purpose. Simply put, a common task provides that common ground and creates a feeling of forward progress and achievement that they can attain, and feel together. Resulting in a very positive foundation for a high performing team.
Engage in a conversation
When you lay the groundwork you create an enabling environment that supports more difficult conversations. Here are some principles to think about:
Aim For Dialogue
Dialogue is a specific kind of conversation. It’s ‘in the flow of meaning’ participants actively seek to deepen understanding beyond what they already know. In dialogue there is balance between inquiry and advocacy.
Voice Your Authentic View
In order to be in dialogue, we need to know what’s really true for others. Holding back or filtering what we say does not help to further the conversation. It only gets the group lost in trying to decipher what you’re saying, from what you really intend.
Inquire: Ask Powerful Questions
Powerful questions are short, often start with “What” or “How” and inquire about the other. When we come from a place of ‘knowing’ versus the place of inquiry we miss out on the opportunities to learn and find places of alignment and empathy.
Questions like “What’s it like to be you?” “What’s important about this?” or “What are three things we have in common?” are powerful inquiries!
By focusing on similarities and common tasks to be achieved, it’s easier for team members to remember they are actually on the same team. When the communication is strong and the inquiry level is high, more challenging conversations can be held without dissension and without defensiveness.
Next, Take a Look at Your Team
In order to help you activate these two powerful steps, take a few minutes and identify:
- Where do you encounter similar types of conversations, as the video illustrated, at work?
- Where do you need a different kind of conversation?
- What’s one thing you could do today that might lay the groundwork?
- Where does conflict exist in your team?
- When conflicts or differences emerge in your team think about how you might apply some lessons from either the Heineken video, or the steps above.
You and your team can build strength and trust when you lay the groundwork and then engage in conversation in an ongoing manner. Breakthroughs and solutions come from better understanding. So do better team results.