Recognizing that conversations are not merely descriptive is critically important. In other words, there’s more to conversation than one person sharing with another person information that already exists. Instead, try considering conversation in a different light:
- Conversation is a creative act.
Conversation is how we coordinate action in order to get something done, to create an outcome. Coordinating action in the professional sphere includes building relationships, exploring possibilities, making commitments to others, negotiating new commitments, and even conveying status. This coordination of action is a central function of leadership.
“[Understanding conversation as an act of creation] is a profound shift in understanding our relationship to the world. It implies we are not describers of an objectively knowable world, fixed and the same for everyone. Rather, we are designers and authors of a world with which we interact.”
— Seven Stones Leadership
The effectiveness of a conversation can be measured by whether it brings about shared understanding, builds commitment, and conveys expectations or whether it creates disappointment, confusion, insecurity, and waste. The former are the products of effective conversation, while the latter are often the products of ineffective conversation.
Effective conversation brings about the outcomes described above by providing:
- Relationship (affinity, trust, context)
- Team camaraderie and morale
- Appropriate forward momentum that advances desirable business outcomes, and
- Efficient use of time
Ineffective conversation is different. It results in:
- Stalled progress
- Damage to relationship or team morale, and
- Reduced willingness to join in collaborative efforts
We want to be sure the conversations we have are of the effective kind. In the next topic, we get into the tools you can use to make sure they are.
*As a reminder, we include in the concept of “conversation” all of the methods you use to communicate with your colleagues (email, IM, Skype or face-to-face meetings, and so on).