What Is A “Real Conversation” In Your Workplace?
In visiting with various organizations, I often mention that “brain-friendly” workplaces are those where ‘real conversations’ are reported to occur. Most often, when I share this point, heads nod and eyebrows are either raised or furrowed, indicating that the idea resonates with listeners. I recently facilitated a management session where I mentioned this phrase . . . ‘real conversations’, and Wow!, did the idea catch fire around the room! Communication effectiveness was a challenge that this organization hadn’t described in this way before, and it seemed satisfying to them to put words to the dynamics they had noticed over time.
What IS a “real conversation”?
What one workplace – or even a work unit – might describe as a real conversation is not necessarily the same as another environment might describe it as. Organizational culture has a tremendous impact on what people talk about, how they make decisions, how direct or indirect they are, how power and status play a role in dialogue, and what happens as a result of the conversation (or doesn’t happen, in some cases).
Effective communication at work is in the eye of the beholder to a certain extent.
How is “real” described?
Here are statements that could be used to describe real conversations in the workplace . . . which would you agree with?
How to evaluate conversations in your workplace
One way to assess the effectiveness of your communication at work might be to look at it through two lenses —TASK and RELATIONSHIP.
TASK-related effectiveness would be measured by results. Messages intended are received. People say what needs to be said and are direct and clear. A purpose in the conversation is either stated or at least implied, and that purpose seems appropriate and useful.
RELATIONSHIP-related effectiveness would be measured by less-tangibles (mindset, self-confidence, team harmony, for example). Each party in the interaction retained his/her dignity, sense of competence, and there was opportunity for each person involved to contribute to the discussion and outcomes. People were respectful and perhaps even acknowledged or appreciated each others’ viewpoints.
Does your work culture value both of the above types of effectiveness? Does it tend to value one over the other?
What if we’re not being real?
An imbalance – or over-focus on one and neglect of the other – would be common. Workplaces create their own culture as a product of the kind of work done, the values held by leaders, the policies, the unwritten rules, and the kinds of employees they attract and retain. A strong and vibrant culture is a good thing. Until the organization becomes too much of itself. Overreliance on some skills often means neglect of others. Neglect can lead to “blind spots” and this can create disengagement, confusion, and resentment among some staff.
An overemphasis of certain skill sets or perspectives can also be a liability as it narrows the spectrum of strengths the organization has to work with. It is healthy to take as objective a view as possible, periodically, to see what sorts of imbalances have developed in reflection of the work culture.
Defining how ‘real’ conversations are . . . or aren’t . . . is a productive discussion to have at any level of the organization and can be a rejuvenating, refocusing technique in the name of on-going organizational improvement!
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