Conversation Killers, Part 3 – Process Issues can Kill Your Conversations
This is part three in a series on ‘conversation killers’, things within our organizations that can stifle the conversations necessary to progress, innovation, and change. I recently presented this content at the LifeServe Conference in Louisville, KY. Much of this comes from the training on Results-based ConversationsTM that was designed by the WildWorks Group in Dallas, TX. If you’re part of a large organization that is looking to have game-changing conversations, look up Tom McGehee and the WildWorks team.
Part 1 of this series is an introduction to the series.
Part 2 focuses on people that can kill your conversations.
This post focuses on some of the process issues that arise within our conversations. Its not enough to have the conversation—we must follow a process that keeps our teams moving toward results. Two of these issues revolve around fruitless pursuits that we need to call off; two deal with a lack of clarity that is common among teams and organizations.
Chasing Rabbits – Robust conversations create multiple ideas or options. That’s a good thing. Work teams should uncover and explore a variety of solutions to any given issue. Operating from a single perspective limits our effectiveness and adaptability. However, we can’t let rabbit trails dominate the discussion. The key: harness those ideas into productive work. Using carefully crafted scenarios is a great way test ideas and options and pull out the key principles of each. Employing multiple work groups can allow for several ideas to be explored at once, and can also allow team members to lean into things they are more interested in or passionate about.
Chasing Consensus – No decisions will ever have total agreement. The pursuit of this kind of “consensus” (I would argue that consensus should not be defined as 100% agreement, but that’s another discussion) often brings the group to the lowest common denominator. In doing so, organizations often settle for mediocrity. Think about it: do you really want to implement the only thing that everyone agrees upon? The key: allow those involved to be heard and participate in making the best decision possible with the facts at hand. Use individual exercises, vote casting, and allow participants to work in teams on elements they are passionate about. When participants feel their voices have been heard and that they have contributed to the conversation, they are more likely to adopt something that isn’t 100% their own. Also, be sure to allow for enough time for understanding to take place throughout the process. Understanding is one of the key factors that fosters ownership and buy-in.
Empty Imperatives – Conversations without decisions or actions are at best merely academic, and at worst extremely frustrating. When a team walks away from a meeting without a next step, the time invested is often perceived as an unnecessary waste. They saying, “Always end with an action step” is a good one. The key: begin with the end in mind—know the decisions you need to make, how you need to make them, and then record them. Use some kind of action planning framework or worksheet that includes accountability and timeline elements.
Unclear Objectives – If you don’t know why you’re meeting, you can’t expect success. Every meeting should have clear agendas, objectives, and outcomes. Not having a clear sense of where you want the meeting to end up can derail the conversation before it starts. The key: set proper expectations for all participants. The more unnecessary meetings you ask others to be a part of, the less invested they will be in meetings that do matter.
What is your process like? Are your meetings creating or killing meaningful conversations? If you need some suggestions or resources for effective processes, contact me.