Leadership Conversationsfor TransformationAnnette Brackin, MBALeadership Development Program DesignerLeadership is accomplished in a succession of conversations rather thangrand proclamations.
Conversations forRelationshipsSkill: Dialogue,not debate ordiscussionConversations forMutualUnderstandingSkill: Framing andReframingConversations forPossibilitySkill: Enrollment,CreatingIrresistible FuturesConversations forActionSkill: Coordinationof ActionConversations forBreakdownsSkill:BreakthroughsConnection,Correction and CultivationFraming, Meaning,Sense- making andContextLiving from the FutureRather than Actingout of the PastCommitmentManagement by DesignRequests, Promises,Offers, Declarations,Assessments, AssertionsCompleting the Past toCreate a New FutureEliminating LinguisticVirusesTransformational Conversations
Conversation DescriptionsLeadership fundamentally starts with people and understanding their concerns. The purpose ofunderstanding concerns is to understand what blocks them from taking new actions, as well as whatinspires them to new possibilities for action. This is the “root cause” analysis of human behavior – whatconcerns are so significant for people that they can or cannot take action toward an organizational goal.The concerns are of course shaped by the way people make sense out of their world and the work of theleader is to shape the “sense making process.” To do so, the leader first has to understand the concernsand this is achieved through psychological safety and dialogue. Dialogue produces clarity, newunderstandings about others’ “mindsets” (static or dynamic) and a deeper understanding what styles ofdecision making, influence and communication move them to action.Conversations forRelationshipsSkill: Dialogue, notdebate ordiscussionConversations forMutualUnderstandingSkill: Framing andReframingLeaders are uniquely positioned to frame and reframe the ways that situations occur to people. Theway events occur to people determines how they make sense of them and respond. Leaders who canshift the way events occur to people are positioned to get people moving in new directions becausethey have shifted people’s underlying assumptions about the world. For leaders this meansinterpreting new directions with the aim of urging followers to move in that direction in theirresponding of day to day events. One skill of interpretation is framing and is achieved through thestrategic use of language, especially context, and sets the stage for enrolling people in theorganization’s vision, mission and goals. Context matters because how people view things sets thepossibilities, limitations, and choices of their daily lives. People naturally impose on the external worldtheir version of reality and the work of the leader is shifting that view of reality, a requirement beforenew directions can be launched. Until people know how to see new possibilities for their reality theycan’t act on them. New possibilities come from framing whole new contexts (assumptions and viewsof reality), not just shifting old ones or shifting content (circumstances).
Conversations forPossibilitySkill: Enrollment,Creating IrresistibleFuturesThe first two conversations dealt with the leader’s ability to understand their followers’ relationship tothemselves and to the topic or change at hand. Once this understanding is achieved leaders can nowenroll people in new possibilities for the future. “Enrollment” conversations are where leaders speakin such a way that people naturally shift from a fixed mindset (positive or negative) and attitude ofnon-participation, to an open mindset, seeing a new idea in a whole new way and onboardingthemselves to the leader’s ideas, thoughts or suggestions about what is possible. The leadership skillor “gem” here is to show people how to create other possible futures besides the one connected tothe present or the past. While people do have various kinds of possible futures they think about,worry about, or hope for, the one that shapes them and their actions in the present is the “future intowhich they are living now.” This conversation redefines time and the nature of “possible futures.”Conversations forActionSkill: Coordinationof ActionConversations for action are about commitment management. Time management is anoxymoron; everyone has the same amount of time available to get things done. The 21stcentury challenge is managing commitments and what people say “yes” to and “no” to. Howthese commitments are managed through language offers a new view of getting the workdone and includes the distinctions of requests, promises, offers, declarations, assessments andassertions. These distinctions, combined with commitment (inspired by leadership) representthe next generation of building individual capacity to do more with less.Conversation Descriptions
Conversations forBreakdownsSkill:BreakthroughsThis conversation recognizes that anywhere a human being is involved, there will bebreakdowns. The leadership skill is turning those breakdowns into breakthroughs. Leaderscreate this transformation by teaching people to complete the past while being informed by it,eliminate linguistic viruses that kill productivity, and hold a healthy view of failure on theirway to possibilities. Breakdowns then become pathways to possibilities and not a place tobecome “stuck.” This conversation is about turning breakdowns into opportunities to inventsomething new.Conversation Descriptions