Conversations Are the Work of a Leader

I have been writing about feedback and feedforward, stay interviews and related topics – essentially our communication with our team members and all co-workers.

There is no question that communication is critically important. In fact, we often hear that good communication could cure many of the problems that exist, not only in our daily work and personal lives, also in the world today.

My friend, Ricky Schramm, a marketing professional, told me that one of his most valuable benefits from his MBA program at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business is his studies with Professor Rebecca Heino, PhD about critical conversations.  He learned a great deal of useful information which serves him well in his profession.

Ricky said he is conflict adverse, as many of us are.  I am.  So understanding that we must truthfully discuss important issues, including the most difficult, is our obligation as a leader.

When I studied for my leadership coaching certification at Georgetown, the professors suggested a number of books for recommended reading, which were at the core of our learning and growth.  Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Timeby Susan Scott is one of those books and is packed with insight.  In fact, my title this week, “Conversations are the Work of a Leader,” is taken from Scott’s book.

My purpose in writing this paper is to heighten awareness of just how important our conversations are. I will continue to borrow fromFierce Conversations as there are so many simple, powerful statements that I believe will help all of us realize our obligation and that this will always be a development opportunity, an area we can always work to improve.  These are some examples:

  • Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person. It could be.
  • Our leadership, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time.
  • Burnout doesn’t occur because we’re solving problems; it occurs because we’ve trying to solve the same problem over and over.
  • The conversation is not about the relationship; the conversation is the relationship.
  • Model what I want – go first!
  • Be here, and nowhere else, giving your full attention to the other person(s), coming around from your  desk, and maintaining comfortable eye contact with “soft” eyes and ears, i.e., be receptive and welcoming.

Susan Scott even has a user’s guide in the back of her book.

Two valuable adages I try to follow are, “A problem discussed is a problem half solved.” and “I am strong when I am clear.”

In sum, leadership is about relationships, and conversations are how we build and maintain productive and meaningful relationships.

Going back to the title, conversations are the work of a leader.

We must remember, our conversations are most effective when we share and we listen to understand and learn.

Yes, conversations take time, a challenge in today’s crazy busy business world, yet the alternative, not discussing important issues, takes even more time, actually a lot more time.

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