Which Conversation Is Necessary?

Last week, I was work-shopping 'Coaching' with a small group of leaders and a 'problem' case study was presented by a member of the group to use as an opportunity to practise their understanding of coaching and new found knowledge. We were briefed by the leader and the group/team of coaches commenced using the GROW model to uncover the purpose of the conversation goal.

After five minutes of questioning, the group realised that they were all feeling the same, challenged by the behaviour of the 'coachee' (which was being well acted); they were unable to create a space which created a dialogue . The coachee was a 'closed shop' and their behaviour was appalling and unhelpful. 

The group was stumped.

I then posed this question to the group, "Which type of conversation is necessary in this situation?"  And, is Coaching appropriate?

It was concluded that the conversation required an approach which dictated the expectations of the workplace, one which acknowledged the condoned behaviours and an agreement of the facts and the course of action required. This conversation was at the opposite end of the spectrum where coaching starts. 

We can be ineffective as leaders if we don't use our time wisely, determining the necessary conversation and the appropriate timing - rather than wasting time and that of others. The spectrum of leadership conversations is vast and ranges from:

Dialogue - to understand

Discussion - to agree or disagree based on the understanding

Decision - to chose a course of action from the agreement/disagreement

Direction - to guide movement towards achieving an action

Dictate - to confront with facts and advise the course of action

Once you've decided on the purpose of the conversation, then it's time to consider the questions and commentary to drive it. Practise makes an effective leader!


Do you have a Prepare & Practise philosophy?

My son is making a presentation at school. He has copied the words, created lovely diagrams and has been practising on our 'stage' for three days. He's feeling confident and showing no signs of anxiety! Phew! I believe I've done my job as a parent.

When I asked a group of adults "do you prepare & practise your tough conversations?"' I wasn't surprised when two hands shot up in the air! The others looked surprised and agreed that they have adopted the 'just give it a go' philosophy or 'I'd rather avoid it' approach.

I have been involved in and observed too many protracted performance management dilemmas and when you delve into the data it generally has a common denominator - a conversation gone wrong or not had!

Preparing what you want to say and share - by writing, typing or dictating doesn't take very long to do. 

However, with all the busyness we don't generally make 'get it right' time. And the consequence is a touch of stress! I find when you write what you want to say, you toy with the words as you realise it isn't clear and could be heard differently to your intent.

Practising what you want to say can involve a role-play with a trusted colleague or mentor or gathering the team to provide feedback when you rehearse.

Most folk will say "that was worth my time practising" and rarely have I heard, "that was a waste of time." And many say "that allowed me to change my choice of words".

Next time you have an important presentation or conversation - prepare & practise. It's the right Practice Philosophy.