Leadership conversations are intended to initiate, coordinate, or complete action.
Certainly, multiple conversations are needed to coordinate, but in the back of a leader’s mind should be how each dialog readily supports action. There are four ways in which we may respond in conversations, and leaders need to increase their awareness of how their own internal reactions and external behaviors decrease or increase conversations for action.
We respond in these four categories:
- Unmoved: When a leader is unmoved in a conversation, it the reaction indicates that they are not open to exploration, information, dissenting ideas, or action. When a speaker invests time during a dialog but sees the other lack any curiosity, they believe the that person is unmovable and they will feel dismissed. It might sound like, “We don’t have the [time, resources, expertise, etc.] to talk about or do such-and-such. Instead: Acknowledge the merits of the perspective and make a commitment to follow-up later.
- Move Against: To move against another person is being oppositional or dismissive when presented contrarian information and perspectives. Even if you oppose just the idea, someone may feel as though you are against them. While someone may, at least, feel noticed, it creates negative tension that some people may assign and harbor a mood not conducive to rich dialog (resentment, perhaps?). “We tried that before,” or, “we don’t have the time,” are familiar refrains. Instead: Acknowledge their viewpoint, pause, reflect on your reaction, and then create an opening to explore their perspective further.
- Move Toward: To move toward someone is to seek out additional information and to presume that there is possibility in the perspective. As we move toward someone in conversation, they feel validated and seen. Even if we immediately disagree with someone’s idea, we still can move toward the person in dialog with us. Instead: “That perspective is different than what I was thinking, and I would like to learn more about it. When do you have time for us to discuss it in depth?”
- Move With: To move with someone in conversation is to integrate their perspectives and intentions with yours and others on the team, presuming a deeper dialog will create greater understanding, and thus, more effective When we move with someone, they feel valued and worthy. This requires us to suspend our ego and attachments to a process or a solution. These types of conversations are complex, requiring a solid presence and adept conversation skills. Most important, to move with others, we need to have a strong sense of self that allows us to be disturbed (being disturbed can be healthy), and a focus on relationships and outcomes, not roles and inputs.
To move toward and to move with does not required complete agreement, but an openness to delve deeper into an issue or opportunity. Final thought: The root words of conversation mean to come together (con/com) and to pour (versare). Welcome the mixing of conversational ingredients, and remind your ego that it is of greater value to support diversity of thought to be the smartest person in the room.