Conversation Killers, Part 2 – People Can Kill Progress, Innovation, and Change
Welcome to this series on conversation killers. My goal is to raise awareness of some of the common threats to open, honest, results-based conversations, and start the dialogue on how to avoid these pitfalls in your organization or church. If you missed the Introduction, you might want to take a minute to read it now.
These first three conversation killers are related to people. With a little redirection, these ‘killers’ can become contributors (which should always be the goal). But before we go further, let me point out two quick things:
#1 – This list is not intended to be exhaustive. I’d like for you to fill in others that you see or have experienced.
#2 – I’m going to focus on people who unintentionally wreck productive conversations. We could talk through ‘saboteurs’ who intentionally seek out to destroy progress, innovation, and change, but those people are more difficult to deal with and may never become productive participants in meaningful conversations.
OK, here we go:
Dominating Personalities – You can’t expect people to check their personalities at the door. They always bring them into your meeting or planning session. Many people are just wired this way and have no malicious intent or ulterior motive when they wrestle for control. The key: create interactions that are not personality-dependent. If possible, use multiple work groups and regularly mix groups throughout your meetings or planning sessions. This will serve to “spread out” the more domineering personas, diffusing their ability to control the room. Also, employ individual exercises and vote-casting to give everyone equal voice. You want your dominating personalities to contribute; you just don’t want them to control.
Dominating Roles – The second ‘convo killer’ differs from the first in that the important factor is position rather than personality (although you can get a two-for-one here as well). The senior person in the room will always influence the work being done. This is true in any organization, church, business, or team. The key: help senior leaders create a positive influence. Work with the senior person to shape the design and set proper expectations. Don’t create a situation where they feel the need to hijack your process. I’ll share an example:
A couple of years ago I facilitated a Recovery Ministries Leadership Community at Leadership Network. We had one team participating in this LC that was unable to bring their senior leader. Throughout the session they had some great breakthrough ideas and developed a new model for their Recovery Ministry. But when they brought it back home, the senior leader put the brakes on everything. It was devastating to the team. Why did it happen? I honestly believe the senior leader was not trying to kill anything, he was put in a position where he needed something more to buy into the new initiative.
Floating Leaders – When a leader moves in an out of working groups, he or she disrupts more than supports. The key: engage the leader in the area where he or she can add the most value. Use the leader’s giftedness and experience to steer them in the right direction. This is where a third-part facilitator can really help. It can be difficult to “steer” your boss.
Think about these conversation killers for a moment:
Have these convo killers ‘stalked’ your organization?
If so, how did you get free of them?
What other kinds of people or personalities threaten your productive conversations?