“Big conversations are often typified by the same issues that bedevil conversations further down – a lack of openness, an inability to listen, a default to old patterns and behaviours.”

Margaret WilliamsonWritten by: Margaret Williamson

The Right Conversation: Spotlight on Dialogue,
What conditions enable effective conversations at work? 

Whether they are strategic conversations in the boardroom or conversations between front-line team members, two things matter: a conducive environment and well-developed skills.  The Right Conversation’s Spotlight on Dialogue, research report identified four necessary conditions and three essential skills for dialogue to take place.

Conditions:

  1. The opportunity to talk about questions that matter
  2. Feeling heard – listened to without judgment
  3. A culture where it is safe to speak your mind and there is mutual respect
  4. Sufficient time to explore the questions

Skills:

  1. Empathy
  2. Open-mindedness
  3. Listening

The research found that “only a small number of organisations provide the learning and development that leaders and line managers need to actually engage in authentic conversations.”  However, “Effective conversational training develops emotional intelligence.  It increases people’s self-awareness and understanding about the impact their behaviour has on others.  It improves their ability to read others and de-code what is really being said.  It teaches techniques to engage constructively, connect and defuse defensive reactions.”

Dialogos have published an interesting case study entitled “Transformative Project Implementation: Catalysing Collective Alignment”, which is an example of how Dialogue can bring people together and rescue a failing project.  The project was to implement SAP (Systems, Applications and Products in data processing) and it was late and ahead of budget.  Employing dialogue techniques, Dialogos consultants consolidated a divided project leadership structure to create one team and a single focus.

They invested in team alignment, enfranchised all the players and created a way of solving complex problems and enabling open engagement.  Teams learned to create safe settings where members could honestly and transparently resolve problems as they arose.  The project and business personnel jointly created an integrated vision of what success would look like.  In consequence, they shifted assumptions about themselves and others and unleashed “a tremendous amount of hopefulness and ambition”.  The project met its’ budget and its revised timetable.

You can read the full case at:

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