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Conversational Leadership

Conversation has not had much of a place in the business world. Of course, communication takes place as a necessity of business but the form and nature of the communication is usually restricted and formal. Consider the difference between conversations in a social setting, and those held in meetings – those in a social context are more flexible in terms of the flow of the conversation, with one idea sparking the next whereas conversations in meetings are structured, and the content of discussions is typically dictated by an agenda. Using a more conversational approach to business communication should facilitate increased organisational creativity, flexibility and adaptability.

Adapting a more conversational approach to communication within your organisation will ensure an inclusive, collaborative approach to leading your people. Conversation opens up the flow of ideas, and this means that you get to tap into more ideas and creativity of your team.

The following tips may help you successfully adopt a conversational approach to communication:

  1.  Be genuine. By adopting this style of communication, your people will be interacting with you in a more personal manner. Your people will also be able to pick up on disengagement from the conversation, so make sure that you are genuinely interested in changing the way you and your organisation communicates, or else this approach can backfire. Authentic communications lead to interactivity and more open and fluid conversation
  2. Stop talking and listen. Know when to stop talking, and start listening to your people. True listening (as demonstrated by attentiveness, repetition of key points back to the speaker, and implementing actions resulting from the conversation), is a sign of a genuine conversation. Over time practising this approach will gain you more trust from your people, and break down organisational barriers enabling a focus on a bottom-up exchange of ideas
  3. Make the purpose clear. Whilst you don’t want to structure the business conversation, having a clearly defined topic of conversation is essential for this technique to work effectively. Establish guidelines for the conversation – not to restrict it, but to keep the conversation on track as a constructive and useful forum for sharing ideas.

Adopting a conversational approach to communication is effectively an application of Adaptive Leadership. This is a dynamic, flexible and inclusive leadership style aimed at engaging the skill set of the entire team. This application in particular, is aimed at engaging team members into a more collaborative open and inclusive work environment.

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