When you are having a conversation, could you clearly state what the purpose of that discussion is?
That’s a simple question but it is one that gets glossed over frequently in the normal rush of today’s work world.
This post is a follow-up to my previous post which discussed the first general type of discussion which was about problem-solving. This will be about developing insights that build relationships, create trust and fast track our ability to create connections.
This is built on the model for Expansive Conversations (2007 by Ted Grubb, PhD.). This focus allows us to create alignment with:
- your staff;
- other members of your function, organization or group, when larger initiatives require group and organizational collaboration;
- other industry peers and thought leaders who may provide ideas and inspiration;
It also helps us to build, maintain and enhance relationships within your organization, key vendors, industry and academic professionals, and key clients in order to:
- create understanding and trust;
- develop awareness in mutually beneficial ways;
- show empathy to develop insights about others and to hopefully enhance the likelihood of reciprocity of understanding.
A Note of Caution
I have always suggested my clients engage in this type of conversation as a way of building relationships and developing trust.
One client shared his story with trying to engage with a key peer. Prior to this time, their interactions had been primarily transactional, with an intended purpose and specific goals to accomplish.
My client was wrapping up what he felt was a very good conversation that was mutually beneficial from his perspective. When my client expressed his thanks for the interchange and prepared to get up to leave, his peer got out of his chair and walked over to the door of his office to block my clients’ exit.
He looked at my client rather suspiciously and asked him what his real purpose was for this interaction and the questions he had asked. My client said he was just trying to get to know his peer better and to understand his perspectives on a project that they were working on together. And that was all.
His peer challenged him again and asked why he was “really” there. These two did not have a particularly difficult relationship at all but my client’s peer asked a couple different ways to see if he could discern any ulterior motives.
My client repeated his reasons for having this type of discussion, thanked his peer for the time and said he gained better insight into the needs and motives of him and his team.
Over time, the result was a relationship that was stronger and more mutually beneficial to all involved and it only got better.
Here are the four steps to developing insights Ted Grubb uses in his model:
1. FOCUS on the person. Ensure that:
- you are fully present, minimizing distractions and interruptions;
- you don’t say you have five minutes when you really don’t.
- you put them at ease.
This is the right time to set mutual expectations – what you each might benefit from; what would constitute an effective interchange.
2. LISTEN to understand the other person’s feelings, values and how they are analyzing a problem. What is their motivation for whatever outcome they are suggesting?
Your first rule here is to STOP TALKING and put them at ease. Do not interrogate them but it’s fine to drill down to understand things from their perspective and for their needs. Think who, what, why, where, when and how.
3. ASK to invite exploration and support discovery. You know you’re doing well when someone says, “Boy, that’s a good question”.
Feel free to take notes during this interchange. Use good follow-up questions during the conversation such as, “What leads you to believe that?”, “Tell me more about…”, etc.
4. EXPAND options and grow new capacity for understanding.
Summarize any insights or perspectives you have gained through the discussion. If there is a specific follow-up, summarize what it is and which of you will be responsible for getting that to the other by a specific date? THANK them for the discussion and their time.
- Did this dialogue result in any interesting or insightful information for you?
- What did you learn about the other person / team? This could be either personal or professional.
- Are you willing to ask the other person the same questions about their experience with you?
Best of luck in developing better relationships and deeper insights.