Gossip, idle talk, rumor, the amazing ability to tell a story in the most frustrating detail to anyone but the person that should be hearing that feedback. It’s a knife in the back of relationships, teams, and organizations and it feels like we’re not doing anything about it.
The ability to communicate effectively and the mental resilience to continue to do so in a constructive manner can be compared to going to the gym or eating healthy. Some practice and study it religiously, others do it when they feel like it, and then there’s … most people.
Whether it’s sharing “unique” knowledge or venting about another colleague, it’s a human condition to look for social status shortcuts and protect our position. If we don’t feel safe in our environment or skilled enough to tackle the tough/right conversations, we won’t.
Life on The Other Side
The upside is huge though. Many happiness theories mention connectedness and shared purpose in their models and yet we (unconsciously) sabotage ourselves by not saying a thing, bitching to others, or committing conversational terrorism with a “there I said it” at the end.
In their book “Crucial Conversations”, Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler lay out the simplest of action steps to move forward. Watch out for simple techniques like reflecting on what you really want, contrasting, and spotting unsafe behavior like silence and violence.
Industry colleagues Callibrain produced a great summary video of the book. I hope it inspires you to pick it up and get cracking. I challenge everyone, but especially leaders and managers to talk to their people and build long-term safety into their teams and relationships.
Leading By Example
Leaders and managers have an extremely important role to play to achieve this at work. At the minimum they have to lead by example, but preferably they will challenge and teach the people around them to cope effectiveley with dealing conversations head-on.
Leaders should start with themselves and with understanding how they as humans are wired to shoot themselves in the foot, move on to helping others disrupt negative patterns and grow into a place where they’re a beacon of safety and drama is socially unacceptable.
Starting with the executive management team and introducing a simple process to ensure conversations are happening continuously between the right people is powerful (e.g. regular check-ins or one-on-ones between employees and their coaches or leaders).
When this is attained at scale work gets done fast and with a smile and zero time is wasted on negative idle talk. Challenges get faced and squashed, even though they were just as big before, but now dialogue has taken up the space where avoidance or politics used to live.
Can you imagine? Meetings are snappy and to the point, transparency is at an all-time high, and the only agenda people have is the one they have in Outlook (I prefer Google though :)). Talk to us if you want to get there in your organization.
Organizational health is within arms reach for every company and it is imperative to remain competitive. Being organizationally smart is a prerequisite to even have customers today, but smart people with no conversational skills will be sluggish in execution at best.
Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2002). Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. McGraw-Hill.