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 hitting the high trust or professional intimacy point.
In the wider organisational context, dialogue can do all of the above, especially when deployed throughout significant change events.
As a leader, consultant and facilitator I have used the power of healthy dialogue as a key contributor toward achieving team success, multi-country collaboration and organisational growth. Some of the most effective stories of team success and organisational growth I have read and heard of also have strong elements of dialogue attached to them. One example in particular that comes to mind was that of a regional CEO of a global pharma company who I heard speak at a conference a few years ago on how he turned his team, and business around. He employed a very simple technique from the very beginning of his tenure that was controversial at first, but well embraced in a short space of time. Dialogue. He learned very early that his regional executive team were not connected; they were not a team. The traditional silo's were in place, 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 sharing that occurred...everyday. Soon the silo's started to disappear, collaboration increased and natural solutions to problems started to occur.
So let's take a brief look at what I mean by dialogue, and some tips on how it can easily be used as an enabler of growth.
My final thought with regards to this technique relate 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 technique 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. Give it a try sometime.
The first six months of this year have been quite inspiring for me. I have worked with leaders from many countries around the world, including; Poland, Germany, Romania, France and South Africa. In this mix there were countless ethinicities, sub-cultures, religions, countries of origin, languages and expectations.
In this time I have learnt, all over again, the power of connection, of tolerance and of unity. Especially with the leadership group in South Africa where this group of blacks, whites, and their various subsets of ethinicities are responsible for role modeling for their workforce what it means to work together, and to win together.
Dialogue is powerful. Dialogue that is nurturing and adult by nature leads to rational and self-sustaning outcomes. How can it not? In these states dialogue has its best chance of being thought through and empathic. It has its best chance of being authentic...real.
I have witnessed people, through dialogue, realise that they didn't have to give up their culture...who they are. Rather, they could bring the best of who they are to the creation of a shared identity. An identity founded on understanding what is important to each of us. An identity created out of a desire to want the best for each other, and for ourselves...and realising that you can't have one without wanting the other. After all; how we see ourselves, is how we see the world.
I am grateful that I have been able to create an opportunity for these people to do things differently. The ability to create healthy choices can never be underestimated...and in business, this is the job of an effective leader.