Since conversation is so important to creating clarity and getting work done with others, let’s look at what it takes to have an effective one. A conversation whose purpose is to get something done with others is likely made effective if it establishes or addresses the following elements:
- Common interest
- Shared expectations
- Clear intention or purpose
- Clear ask, request, or call to action
- Defined roles and responsibilities
- Clear commitment
- Clear conditions of fulfillment (how you know when the commitment is fulfilled)
- Resource needs
Think of these elements as the building blocks for working successfully with others.*
When one or more of the building blocks is absent from or not addressed in a particular initiative, work effort, or work relationship, the chance that something will go wrong increases. In contrast, when we make an effort to address the building blocks in our work with others, we increase our chances of being successful.
- Conversations that address these critical elements cement individuals together in service of a common course of action.
Think back to a time when…
- You were in a meeting where the big picture wasn’t clear or where you weren’t sure why you were in the room.
- You received a lengthy email that failed to make a clear ask, or one that did but it wasn’t obvious which of the five people on the “to” line the ask was directed to.
- A colleague came into your office, started speaking, and several minutes had passed before you knew why he was telling you what he was telling you.
How did you feel in that interaction?
If you are like most of us, confused, impatient, or irritated are words that come to mind. You might even think these feelings are the inevitable byproducts of working with other people. However, what if that isn’t true? What if instead, these feelings are more frequently byproducts of neglecting one or more of the building blocks?
Can you identify which building blocks are missing from the scenarios above? If not or if you aren’t sure, don’t worry. Most of us are not accustomed to approaching conversation like this and it can feel a bit clunky in the beginning. With continued practice—i.e., your labwork—the process will start to feel more natural.
Pro tip: it is not necessary that all of the building blocks come together in one single meeting or conversation. Rather, the building blocks may be addressed over a series of meetings or in the context of the overarching collaboration or relationship.
Now that you are acquainted with the building blocks for successful collaboration with others, we will turn to two teachings—one a tool and the other a model—you can use to address the building blocks and thereby improve the quality of your conversations:
- Clarity Checklist. The Clarity Checklist is a tool you can use to plan your interactions and—for those interactions that are underway—to evaluate how well they are going; you can also use the checklist to bring your conversations back on track when needed.
- Conversation Types. The model you will learn this week explains that there are three primary types of conversation that occur in business. Working with the model, you will learn how to identify where each type often breaks down and how to address those breakdowns to bring your conversations back to effectiveness.
In Week 7, we will look at additional techniques that drive clarity when an interaction escalates and conflict seems inevitable. With this collection of tools, you will be equipped with new skills to help you bring and sustain the clarity necessary to ensure a useful, productive focus in your work with others.**
*The content here addresses the kinds of conversations used to coordinate action, which is what we’re doing when we lead people and projects; we are not talking about casual social conversations.
**As a reminder: these are tools to add to your toolbox so that you can draw on them as situations call for, and also as fits within your own personal style. Nothing in this Lesson, or the rest of the CCO for that matter, is intended to suggest that these techniques are one-size-fits-all or that you won’t be successful if you don’t use all of them exactly as presented here. I encourage you to try them on and make them your own by modifying them and incorporating them into the strategies that are already working for you.