THE BLOG
04/22/2013 02:46 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2013

Co-Creating Conversations

What if we could create organizations where change and transformation were exhilarating and natural? Where people were devoted, engaged, and accountable to act as leaders rather than blind followers? Where people worked with each other to differentiate their brand and capture the hearts, minds, and souls of customers?

Leaders are trying to make the shift from a top-down, control-driven style of leadership to a collaborative and engaging style that grows talent and attracts customers to partner in each other's success.

Many companies are investing incredible time and resources into leadership and talent development programs, hoping to reap the benefits of a healthy, engaged, and inspired workforce.

At the heart of many leadership development programs is the desire to help leaders learn how to motivate and engage others to deliver results. Some companies focus on helping leaders become more self-aware. Other companies focus on developing their high-potential leaders to ensure an ongoing flow of talent in the organization.

The leader's role is to determine the competencies required for success and to help people learn how to work together to expand their ability to handle complexity and change. How to think bigger and bolder, and how to use feedback.

Imagine that you trigger this potential shift, that you set the stage for growth, and shape the culture so that latent talent emerges. What would that workplace look like?

Ask yourself this question: Am I creating a culture that enables colleagues to create the future, form feedback-rich relationships for mutual success, make beliefs transparent, and collaborate and co-create positive CHANGES?

Conversations and language. Are conversations healthy? Do people complain about others behind their backs, or do people have face-to-face discussions? Is there a lot of triangulation (people using others to tell someone what's on their mind) or do people give direct feedback? Is there an ongoing conversation? Are people engaged in working out how to get to the end game, or are they distracted with conversations about why things are not moving forward? Is there a blaming/victim culture or an accountability culture? Is the enterprise being run by fear or hope? Do people share a common language and a common reality? Can people tell the truth?

Heart and soul. Is there a spirit of appreciation or a punitive spirit? Do leaders complain about poor performance, or are they skilled at developing talent? Do leaders provide developmental feedback? Do they recognize good work and effort, or only look for what's wrong? Do they look at the past and complain about what's not happening, or do they focus people on creating the desired future? Do they focus on problems or opportunities?

Actualization of vision. Are leaders providing direction? Often the vision is too far out for people to grasp the implications. When guiding principles are not practiced, breakdowns occur in the actualization of the vision and in relationships between leaders and employees. Leaders communicate a vision and expect employees to implement it. What's missing is the interpretation of the vision down to the level of "what does it mean to me and what do I have to change to get there?"

Networks. Are employees collaborating and bonding across boundaries? Clanning takes place when people support each other in the pursuit of their goals. Clanning customs either strengthen or weaken the culture. Some cultures form silos, where people are excluded from other divisions, departments, or functions. Healthy organizations form networks that allow vital information, innovative ideas, and best practices to be shared internally and with outside vendors and customers. The mental health of the culture depends on the "well-ness" of the factions and sub-cultures co-creating together in spite of their differences. When teams are in conflict, there may be excessive gossip. The remedy is to bring the groups together to harmonize or expand their common perspectives.

Give and take. In what ways are colleagues engaging with each other for mutual success? An enterprise depends on the sharing of resources,
ideas, and practices to survive and thrive in the face of challenges. As colleagues learn to share and trust, leaders evolve the capability of sustaining trust in the face of challenges.

Cultures that encourage brainstorming with no support process create frustration. Employees lose faith in their leaders and in themselves. A mature culture puts in place support systems such as Ideation and Innovation Centers. The management team resources projects designed to test and experiment new ways of thinking and doing. People are rewarded for coming up with new products and services and turning their ideas into realities.

Enterprise mind. Is there a feeling that "we're all in this together?" Are employees and management linked as though they were "one mind?" Are people clear about who we are and what we stand for? Are they learning from past mistakes to find new strategies? Are they doing this in collaborative teams, or are individuals seeking credit for themselves? Is there an enterprise brand? Do employees live the brand? Does the brand engage the hearts, minds, and sprits of employees and customers?

Spirit. Is there a spirit of discovery and inquiry in the enterprise? Are people learning from past mistakes and using them to work better? Can people let go of the past and embrace the new? Is everyone working to realize a common purpose? Are they developing leadership points of view? Are leaders pushing their ideas on others (creating a culture of compliance) or are they setting the stage for people to grow their points of view (take ownership and have strong commitment)? What forums exist for pushing against the current rules and culture and creating the next-generation of thinking and being?

What kind of leader are you? Unaware leaders blame others for what goes wrong. Self-aware leaders look inside and explore the impact they have on their culture. When you influence in positive ways, you create a culture that sustains commitment and enthusiasm to achieve audacious goals.

Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results by Judith E. Glaser (BiblioMotion - Forthcoming October 2013; Pre-order on Amazon May 1st)