Dialogue. For many people, let alone leaders, this is a scary concept. However for a leader, dialogue is often the single most important activity that can establish your credibility, solve issues, pre-empt issues before they need solving, and bring a team closer together. In a team that is already close, regular dialogue is a key contributor to maintaining high trust and engagement.
In the wider organisational context, dialogue can do all of the above and more, especially when deployed throughout significant change events.
As a leader, consultant and facilitator I have been using the power of healthy dialogue as the key medium for helping:
Outside of anything I've done, there are countless examples of really good leadership where dialogue has been the main tool. One example that comes to mind was that of a regional CEO of a global pharmaceutical company who turned his poor performing executive team and business around through the use of effective dialogue. He learned very early that his regional executive team were not connected; they were not a team. Silo's were present in his team, and this was reflected down through the organisation with poor collaboration and communication. One of his first team leadership tasks was to have the executive team meet for one hour...everyday. The purpose of the meeting was simply to talk. Sometimes there were specific topics, but mostly it was about the connection that comes with mature dialogue. In a short space of time his team went from begrudging the daily hour, to looking forward to it. This was simply due to the natural sharing, personal and professional, that occurred...everyday. Soon the silo's started to disappear, collaboration increased and natural solutions to problems started to occur. Best of all, the team started to build a rapport and momentum that was reflected down through the organisation.
So let's take a brief look at what I mean by dialogue, and some tips based on my own experiences for how you can use dialogue as an enabler of growth.
If you want to facilitate a conversation with your team that is more exploratory in nature, like solving an issue in the team, brainstorming, teaming etc... the following guidelines are critical.
My final thought with regards to dialogue relates to you; the leader. To use dialogue constructively you have to trust yourself as much as your team. Why? Because the agenda is unknown, and driven by the group. This can be seen as giving up the 'power' that comes with being a leader. The only thing you are controlling is the flow of conversation, and working with the energy in the room.
The risk with using this approach is potentially high, simply because it isn't what people are used to, and everyone is invited to be 'present' to the conversation in a largely non-traditional and non-structured way. And as mentioned above, the leader or facilitator, takes a slightly different approach to leading the meeting.
Having said that, the risks may be high, but so are the rewards.
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded leaders, teams and companies.