How do you differentiate between idle chatter and an important business, work-related conversation?
I think it’s simple. And I’m guessing you know the answer too.
Well, I’ve been encouraging people to talk to each other . . .
to hold some quality conversations . . .
to talk to each other about leadership . . .
To get conversations about leadership started . . .
And this is how it began . . .
We’re all busy people, and often a conversation can be misinterpreted as idle chatter, a distraction or the interruption we often try to minimize or eliminate in a busy working day.
But working on a leadership development programme over the last year that’s been innovative in its delivery, I wanted to encourage participants to contact me to feed back on what interested them.
And I always hoped that these conversations would feel, and be, different to those they’d perhaps previously put into the idle chatter category.
Conversations, instead, where people could open up, express their views, critique opinions, and do all this in a safe environment, with people who could trust each other.
I’ve always believed that we should share stories about leadership and leaders. We should be unafraid to name those who are brilliant, and find a way to talk about how those who do it less well make us feel. We should find a healthy forum in a mature organisation to be able to ask questions and make comment without fear of criticism or embarrassment.
And this is exactly what started to happen. I noticed, quite quickly, that with a little encouragement, people began by . . .
- emailing me to comment on the newsletter publication I’d distributed, which was jam-packed full of articles about leadership and self – something sparked their interest enough to want to comment on it, and this was great feedback for me. I didn’t need to know that they liked, or agreed, with the articles – but I did want to know that they’d read them.
Then slowly at first, and soon gaining pace . . .
- some began to pick up the phone for the quickest, simplest of chats – perhaps to share a story about their leadership, or again, to comment on an article that had been significant for them; and this was a huge win in a culture where, like so many others, email is a preferred communication choice
And then later . . .
- with not much more encouragement, people sought me out to take me up on my offer for a chat over a coffee; sometimes planned, and at other times on the off chance just because they happened to be in my building
Giving people the opportunity to talk was met with reluctance, at first, until we agreed that it wasn’t wasted time; that conversations about leadership are important.
And the many light bulbs that came on (theirs and mine) in our leadership conversations, have been illuminating.
You will never convince me that conservations about leadership aren’t useful or necessary. The wasted time is when we don’t have them.