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. Coordination of action is a central function of leadership and it happens by way of conversation.
“[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
I promised you in Week 4 (Executive Presence – Bringing It) that we would come back to the topic of clarity and the role it plays in being executive.* Being known for bringing clarity to the things you are involved in is a key aspect of being executive.
- We create and demonstrate clarity by having effective conversations.**
The effectiveness of a conversation can be measured by whether it brings about shared understanding, builds commitment, and conveys expectations (the products of effective conversation) or whether it creates disappointment, confusion, and waste (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.
* Recall, we can think of executive presence – or being executive — as being made up of four elements: (1) integrity, (2) conviction of belief, (3) clarity of thought, and (4) composure under pressure. We covered the first two principles in Week 4 (Executive Presence – Bringing It) and we’ll study composure under pressure in Week 8 (Presence – What Do You Stand For?). Our focus this week is on clarity and how you can use it to bring more success into how you work with others.
**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).