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Conversations that Count

Conversations that Count: In an age where digital monologues, selfies and superficial chats are the norm, the power of conversation is waning. Disconnected in our connected world, text, email and social media exchanges are hardly interactive, let alone conversational.
TV, live-streamed and public-event ‘conversations’, from political debates to discussion groups, tend to be immature, combative and divisive because there is something to ‘win’, the audience are passive listeners, and there is an ‘entertainment value’ to be optimised.

Good communication in the workplace is essential to team work, customer service, problem solving, harnessing diversity, building social relationships, networking, collaboration agility and resilience .......... yet .........Scientist and philosopher David Bohm (On Dialogue) points out “… Communication is breaking down everywhere, on an unparalleled scale … Different groups … are not actually able to listen to each other … the consequent sense of frustration inclines people ever further toward aggression and violence, rather than toward mutual understanding and trust”.

In the office, conversations avoided, like elephants, don’t go away. They form disturbing undercurrents that detract from relationships and performance. The more elephants there are to edge around, whisper about, insinuate, hide and deny, the more grouchiness, sniping, resentment and enmity there is. Some even speak of 'culture chasms' between leaders and their followers - far bigger than mere gaps. in this situation co-operation is stunted. Creativity suffers. Everybody is unhappy. Far better to have conversations that matter.

A robust and safe process that works to the benefit of the organisation, its cultural evolution and its members is CONVERSATIONS THAT COUNT:

- A confidential and easy- to-participate array of (short) on-line surveys (conversation - starters) and expert interpretation to address key topics. Respondents are exposed to statements that may well embed new words, metaphors and thinking that promote the seeing of complex situations and systems from new perspectives.

- Optional opinion pieces, reflections and exercises follow, that allow for a deeper dive into the topics

- With this knowledge and preparation constructive, open and confidential group 'conversations' are conducted using anecdote circle technology as a safe container for sharing, listening, surfacing valuable information, feelings (beyond the 'edges' of what they would previously have explored) and collective wisdom. This phase resonates with appreciative inquiry (and touches on the not-so-positive) as well as with aspects of humble inquiry.(Eminent educational and cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner believed that “the richest learning comes from narrative …. It deals in human or human-like intention and action and the vicissitudes and consequences that mark their course”. This is where a "right brain" aspect is added to the process).

- Specific norms and behaviours can then be addressed, and a focused culture change towards a new way of being has started ....


(Behavioural science is demonstrating the power of mindfulness, attentive listening, using the power of ‘AND’ rather than ‘EITHER/ OR’ to dissipate resistance, bring people to a shared perspective, and guide decisions, applying new ways of nurturing change, and entering an emerging future together in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. The Conversations that Count process rests on these principles. It is a means of nudging people into making the cultural changes that count. The process is also compatible with David Rock's principles of fairness, safety, equal-status, autonomy and certainty).

If you’d like more information please email surveys@storytelling.co.za or grahamwilliams@change.co.za

"Graham spent many hours working with our organization on an initiative around conversation circles. Every experience, from the administration of three powerful surveys to the facilitation of conversation circles, was thoughtfully and professionally handled. We found that the process enabled our team members to open up, allowing authentic and heart felt sharing of experiences. This sharing of stories resulted in a newly discovered bond among our team members. Graham truly demonstrates attentive listening while humbly bringing his expertise to the table. Graham is the ideal consultant… subtly challenging the status quo while encouraging movement toward a workplace that emanates the spirit of love. We are forever grateful for his friendship and guidance" - Eva Cooper, Chief Community Education Officer, The Pastoral Institute, Columbus, GA.

Some conversation topics that we’ve been involved with include:

  • What are the boundaries of what we’re prepared to discuss
  • The masks we wear
  • Escaping psychic prisons
  • Change fatigue
  • Diversity and discord
  • What is the spirit of our workplace?
  • Becoming story-competent on the journey to wholeness
  • Stifled creativity and innovation
  • Making our workplace more cohesive
  • Language, jargon, communication styles
  • I or We in teams?
  • Superior customer and stakeholder service
  • Developing a Culture of Sustainability
  • Entrenching Basic Business Skills and a Learning Culture

This range of conversations:

  • helps ready the organisation for the future, in terms of agility and resilience, diversity, creativity and innovation, workplace culture
  • stimulates engagement,learning, attention to sustainability and leadership
  • addresses areas where there may be dysfunction - psychic prisons, cohesion, authenticity
  • and facilitates improvement where there are shortcomings - teamwork, basic business skills

These conversations lead to purposeful, owned action results, and support efforts to unearth and develop core, supporting and threshold values. More detailed descriptions of the surveys are available from grahamwilliams@change.co.za

SURVEY COMBINATIONS

A few conversations that are appropriate to the challenge being faced by an organisation may be combined. For example in the case of a:

  • Disruptive, radical change threat requiring adaptions to business processes, people and technology - then creativity and innovation, customer service, building resilience and team work may be selected, (the latter two conversations being especially apt during post-merger or reengineering situations).
  • Major employment equity change where the organisation has lagged behind and wishes to appoint Black directors, leaders and managers on a fairly large scale, they would benefit from - diversity, cohesiveness and change fatigue conversations.
  • Serious level of underperformance, a package of conversations including - team work, basic business skills and learning, the spirit of the workplace, psychic prisons, story is indicated …
  • Mismatch between external Image and reputation and internal cultural reality? A client offering counselling, coaching and training services, staffed by independent professionals in different areas, and needing fresh purpose, behaviours to be exhibited congruently with espoused values - concerned about emerging and unhelpful cultural dynamics … opted for initiating conversations around taboo conversations, authenticity and the spirit of their workplace. As a result they have embarked on a significant transformation journey.
  • Need to discovering an organisation’s soul. In order to pursue this intentions a new CEO/ Owner, aware of a need to probe and nurture the soul of a Retail franchise organisation, selected from - psychic prison, cohesiveness, spirit of the workplace, and sustainability conversations

AND WHAT ABOUT A YEAR-END OR YEAR-START CAMPFIRE CHAT OR CAFE TABLE CONVERSATION?:

A unique event for your staff... introduce them to an exciting new way of communicating, sharing, passing on information, knowledge and wisdom. This will improve team dynamics and assertiveness as well as being a lot of fun.

Entertaining, Enlivening, Educational, Motivational.

Geared to your needs.

Contact us now or email grahamwilliams@change.co.za