Two Practices to Foster Conversations Worth Having
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Conversations are key to health and well-being, good relationships, and ultimately success for organizations. Yet, we usually leave them up to chance.
Leaders who learn to intentionally foster conversations worth having fuel productivity and meaningful engagement. Allowing conversation to flow without attention may be at the heart of poor performance, failure, and lack of engagement.
Conversations worth having are inquiry-based and outcomes-focused.
Focusing on desired outcomes, instead of problems, enlivens people and sparks creativity. Questions that generate new information and possibilities stimulate interest and innovation.
#1. Positive Framing:
Frame conversations to focus on what you want.
If you’ve got a problem, address that issue by flipping the conversation to talk about the outcome you’d have if you didn’t have the problem. For example, poor performance —> quality work that exceeds customer expectations. Which would you rather talk about?
#2. Generative Questions:
Ask questions that build understanding and elicit information, ideas, and possibilities.
Generative questions create more solutions for a problem and often ground them in current experience. For example:
- When have we delivered quality work that exceeded customer expectations?
- When have you been on the customer-end of receiving quality work that exceeded your expectations?
- What can we learn from those stories?
Conversations worth having require the habit of open mind, open heart, and open will.
- Trust there is more relevant information than you know.
- Assume good intent of all involved.
- Ask questions for which you do not know the answer.
- Use words that invite and welcome a diversity of perspectives.
Why bother? Because ultimately your level of success depends upon your conversations. Strong relationships, high performance, and innovation are fueled by positive framing and generative questions.
What practices foster conversations worth having?
About the Authors
Cheri Torres and Jackie Stavros co-authored Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement.
Stavros is a professor at College of Management, Lawrence Technological University; Appreciative Inquiry strategic advisor at Flourishing Leadership Institute; and an associate at Taos Institute.