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Not all conversations are created equal

November 1, 2012

By The Linkage Editorial Team

Extraordinary leaders employ distinctive forms of verbal communication. They don’t mix their messages, fudge meanings, or use ambiguous words, and their conversations are always candid, clear, and followed by committed action. According Linkage’s founder and CEO Phil Harkins, these leaders are effective because they have “Powerful Conversations”—blueprints for success that come alive and create positive attitudes and energy in teams. Here’s brief explanation of how effective leaders have “Powerful Conversations” with their teams that lead to real results:

  1. Before getting into the specific details of goals and objectives, high-impact leaders spend all the time that’s needed on forming a clear vision—the general shape of a desired outcome or future state—of the overall goals and objectives that the team will be working towards.
  2. The vision conversation entails a candid and clear discussion of what people are thinking and feeling. High-impact leaders make sure there is a genuine expression of beliefs, expectations and even fears, while also patiently ensuring that the conversation remains relevant to the big picture. This keeps all those involved from becoming mired down and enables a useful and realistic agenda to be established that the leader can then assess.
  3. Skillful leaders discuss any issues that are enmeshed in the proposed agenda with team members so they can deepen their understanding of the team’s goals and bring any hidden issues they may have to the surface. Effective leaders describe and refine scenarios that link future outcomes with the current situation and always keep the process focused on target outcomes. This helps the team to see what progress it has made and how much more there is to be done.
  4. The closing of a powerful conversation is also the time when a leader makes sure there is absolute buy-in, or belief in what the team is setting out to do, that team members’ commitments are clear and accepted, that all action steps are well-defined and understood. A team comes alive when all members know exactly what steps need to be taken next, and they are open about what they need to do to turn their commitments into reality, and “Powerful Conversations” make that possible.

So let’s hear it. Are you having powerful conversations? Or are you and your team getting mired down?
About Phil Harkins

Phil Harkins is an internationally-known author and expert in the areas of organizational development, leadership, communications, and executive coaching, as well as the founder and CEO of Linkage, Inc. Through his work at Linkage, he has led hundreds of organizations toward better performance, strategic advantage, and routine excellence. Along with leadership expert Warren Bennis, Phil is also co-chair of Linkage’s Global Institute for Leadership Development which has trained and developed over 4,000 leaders worldwide. He has also facilitated over 800 meetings and has been a principal speaker at over 400 conferences, symposia, and retreats throughout the world.

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