In business, we gain trust, collaborate, learn and increase our collective wisdom through conversation. But how many conversations are truly productive? How much time have you or do you spend in meetings where issues aren’t resolved, understanding is not gained and actions fail to materialise? How many such meetings degrade into a competition about who can get their opinion over in the most persuasive way?
I overheard a conversation between a marketing director (MD) and a product development director (PDD) recently. It went something like this:
MD: “You know our new targets for increasing sales in the next quarter? Well, my in my revised marketing plan I recommend a series of high profile webinars, linked to trial offers of the products, to do this. What do you think?”
PDD: “We tried webinars in my previous company and they failed miserably. And the trial offers will undermine brand values and hit margin. So I really don’t think that will work. In my revised development plan I have outlined a proposal for upselling the new X product to existing large blue chip users, that way we retain our premium brand image.”
MD: “But you will never attain the targets we have been set with that plan. The market is too niche. My plan is more about volume and we have much more chance of hitting those tight targets.”
PDD: “Well its my brand that you are working with here and I won’t recommend your plan to the CEO. It’s just too risky. He will also be worried about the financials behind it.”
And on it goes. Two people clearly stating their opinions but making some not-so-obvious mistakes to get to true collaboration and thereby missing the opportunity to reach a solution that is bigger than the sum of the parts.
There are some common, yet often hard-to-spot blocks, to productive dialogue and conversation which I mentioned in the previous post. So how do we turn such conversations around to accelerate business performance and success?
We engage in the dance of conversation. By balancing advocacy (clearly stating our own opinions and thinking without being attached to them – quite zen really) with inquiry (staying open and curious to the others point of view and ideas even if they are in conflict with ours).
Here’s a few things to consider:
- Build rapport and stay in rapport when you are disagreeing – if you are able to develop deep rapport, it is amazing what difference it makes
- Undertand how thoughts and emotional state affect our behaviour and non-verbal communication – manage your own state to stay in dialogue even if the other person is annoying or irritating you
- Recognise the logical levels of change and tap into higher motivating levels to work in a more powerful way with the other person (i.e.’chunk up’ to find commonality in beliefs and values or purpose)
- Use language skilfully – recognise any assumptions or inferences that you are making and stick to the facts. What is missing or what are you ‘not seeing’ ? What are you generalising or distorting? What conclusions are you jumping to? Go back and just stay with the facts.
- Help others see where you are coming from by sharing your thinking with them clearly – clearly reveal how you came to your conclusions (based on fact). Encourage them to challenge your thinking – welcome and embrace this, as it is only through staying open to challenge that we get to a higher level of reasoning
- Aim for reciprocal inquiry : Actively listen to the other person (i.e. don’t just listen for the gaps in their conversation so that you can get your next point in!) and use questions skilfully to elicit and fully understand the other’s point of view:
- “What data have you used to get your plan?”, “how are you seeing this differently to me?”, “how did you reach your conclusions?”, “Remind me what your overall purpose or goal is here”
Of course, Changeworks Communications has much more to share about this. Our three day ‘ABC’ course, “Achieving High Performance through Accelerated Business Conversations” is part of our Embodied Brand (TM) programme. And teaches you how to have powerful conversations that will change the way you work.