Good Conversation Is An Inside Job

A good friend and colleague told me recently how reading my book, Talk Matters!, inspired him to reflect on his inner workings and how he interacts with others in his various roles as an experienced manager and member of several boards. I, of course, appreciated his taking my words to heart. It also got me to thinking that the essence of good conversation might primarily be an inside job. Despite years of teaching communication and … Read more…

Practicing What I Preach

It’s getting harder to practice what I preach these days. It seems that several times a day I want to fight or flee from what I am hearing and seeing. In a recent Op Ed piece in our local paper, the headline “My skin color is my curse in today’s America” over the face of a mustachio-sporting white man pulled my chain. I immediately turned to the next page with unkind epithets spewing in my … Read more…

Effective Conversations Are a Critical Leadership Tool

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? You’ve been conversing your whole life. There’s no mystery involved, right? Maybe. As a leader how do you use conversations to lead, to get stuff done? (I am distinguishing between a task-oriented meeting with four or more participants and conversations among two to three.) People often start conversations with present-day events or concerns. For example, imagine that as you walk back to your office after a meeting, you exclaim … Read more…

Why Can’t We Converse with One Another?

It’s a tough time for conversations. The toxic national political environment is infecting interactions among friends, colleagues and neighbors. We are having a harder time listening to one another and an easier time vilifying those who think differently than we do. Social media feeds the flames. Curiosity and compassion have gone AWOL. Conversations are fraught with fears about the future, anger about the past, and disbelief at how we got here. The challenge for each … Read more…

Mindsets Shape Meetings

Fixed or Growth Mindset

In a recent meeting with a client Roger and one of the organization’s senior managers expressed their concerns about a direction the CEO wanted to go. The CEO had spent a lot of time thinking about this direction and was confident it was right. Because this executive has a growth mindset, however, he listened to Roger’s and the manager’s concerns and changed his mind, “I got it. I just needed to think it through again.” … Read more…

Listening and Questioning Tied to Empathy and Compassion

Listening and questioning, which we have been examining for the last five weeks, are actions we can take which are tied to empathy and compassion.  Both empathy and compassion seem appropriate for the season, so we wanted to delve in again with our post from November 11, 2015. Tina Turner’s 1984 Grammy Song of the Year asks “What’s love got to do with it?” It turns out that compassion—an element of love—has everything to do … Read more…

Asking Questions of Genuine Curiosity

Asking great questions is an important partner skill to good listening skills.  In this season of political upheaval paired with many opportunities to gather socially, questions of genuine interest will be a valuable tool.  To elaborate we are re-posting our original blog on this topic from November 4th of last year. Listening (“Go-To” Skill #1) and asking questions of genuine curiosity (“Go-To” Skill # 2) are the keys to the kingdom of understanding and working … Read more…

Talent is Ubiquitous

I recently had the privilege of speaking at the New Leaders Council Annual Retreat in Washington, DC. One of the other speakers was Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. In her informal talk, she said, “Talent is ubiquitous and opportunities are few.”  I agree with the first part of her statement and want to challenge the second. If “opportunities” means positions, like an elected or non-elected official or a manager or supervisor, I … Read more…

A Prisoner of Bad Meetings?

The doodle above is my colleague Michael Kraft’s “notes from a recent meeting.” It reads like a note from a prisoner on death row. You don’t have to be a prisoner of bad meetings! Honestly, you don’t. Or, not most of the time anyway. You have options. At least two people are responsible for you being a prisoner in a bad meeting: you and the person who convened it. You are probably already familiar with … Read more…

“Go-To” Skill #2: Asking Questions of Genuine Curiosity

Listening (“Go-To” Skill #1) and asking questions of genuine curiosity (“Go-To” Skill # 2) are the keys to the kingdom of understanding and working well with others to solve tough issues. Without these two, we are stuck in the movie Groundhog Day, recreating the same conversation over and over again until we get it right. In “Change Your Questions Change Your Life” Marilee Adams makes a distinction between “learner questions” and “judger questions.” Questions of genuine … Read more…