This is one of the most fundamental and powerful concepts that I’ve learned in my career. It’s one of those “truths” that once you experience and understand its impact, you see it everywhere. However, in order to fully appreciate the importance of missing conversations, we need to establish some context.
If I were to follow you around for a week and record your daily leadership and work routine on video, what would the video reveal? Based on having asked this question to hundreds of leaders from many different countries and cultures, I have learned this – much of our daily leadership routine is spent being in conversation.
Examples of the many ways in which we are in conversation on a daily basis include:
- Calls (video and/or audio).
- Emails, texts, emojis.
- Reading and writing reports.
Being in conversation with others is central to sharing information, collaboration, developing others, and our own learning. In fact, I believe that the ability to engage in effective conversation is a foundational aspect of effective leadership. It is through the ability to engage in effective conversations and relationships that leaders create results.
In addition to revealing the prevalence of conversations in our day-to-day leadership, the video would also reveal a few basic types of conversations that are common and necessary, regardless of the context of each leader. From my experience, I have found six types that are most common.
Six Basic Types of Conversations
- Alignment – Establishing intent on vision, goals, etc.
- Awareness – Keeping people informed and preventing asymmetrical knowledge within a team/group.
- Action – Coordinating action regarding who will do what, and by when.
- Relationship – Establishing expectations for relationships and behaviors.
- Understanding – Seeking to understand other’s point of view and interpretation.
- Realignment – Seeking to realign understanding, expectations, action, and/or relationships as misalignment occurs.
Missing conversations refers to situations where one or more of the 6 basic types of conversations have not taken place and thus created an imbalance. After 20 years of helping leaders and organizations succeed, I have learned this:
- Some form of missing conversation is always at the core of poor performance.
- Identifying and resolving missing conversations has a powerful and positive impact on performance.
- Choose a team that you are a member of or that you are leading.
- Use the 6 basic types of conversations to assess the possibility of missing conversation within the team.
If missing conversations are identified:
- What impact does this have on performance?
- Which types of conversations are missing?
- What actions can you take to resolve the missing conversation(s)?