• Sarah Happel, MS, MCC

The Power of Missing Conversations

"Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters." – Margaret Wheatley

Applauding the success of your team is a powerful way to boost morale and engagement. Yet most organizations today don’t have leaders taking enough time to pause, savor success, and simply say, "Thank you." It’s constantly rated the number one "missing conversation" with our clients across all industries. What are the biggest missing conversations in your organization? As we settle into 2022, it’s worth paying attention to which discussions have been avoided or overlooked. As a leader, your tool of choice is a powerful conversation. What discussions are you simply not having? How could your culture - and results - shift if you found the time and courage to have them? Below we have outlined the framework for leading missing, required and prohibited conversations to achieve top performance:

  1. Missing Conversations: What are the conversations we are simply not having? The real secret to top teams lies not in implementing a brand new process, but getting people to hold each other accountable to that process. Although these conversations are often referred to as crucial, difficult or fierce conversations (all best-selling books, by the way) we don’t have to think about it that way. Try this reframe: What are the discussions that simply aren’t happening within the organization? What possibilities could open up if they did?

  2. Required Conversations: What are the conversations we all need to consistently have? Once your team can identify missing conversations, help them identify what should be said in a consistent manner across the organization. Messages that need to regularly be communicated to direct reports, peers and stakeholders are often a special kind of missing conversation. Some spots to identify required conversations often include on-boarding, performance reviews, exit interviews or branding. What messages need to consistently be communicated inside and outside your organization? How can we all say the same thing the same way?

  3. Prohibited Conversations: What are the conversations we all need to decline? If your team is getting top results, by all means, keep doing what you’ve always done. However, if there are places where you observe integrity outages, lack of inclusivity or inappropriate behavior you may want to invite your team to identify prohibited conversations. Co-creating a ground rule to not allow prohibited conversations could drastically improve the health of your team. Here are some clues that this type of missing conversation is taking place:

  • Do the real conversations happen at the water cooler or in a subgroup?

  • Does gossip plague moral or the overall well-being of your team?

  • Are employees saying they don’t feel seen or supported in the greater culture?

If so, gracefully demonstrating how to decline being part of a destructive conversation is a good place to begin. That may sound like this: "Bob, I can see you are upset with Robin, and that must be difficult. And, I’m going to decline being a part of this conversation with you today and invite you to speak directly with Robin about it." These conversations aren't always easy to spot, but if you take the time to co-create them with your team, role-model curiosity and invite people to step into a brave space, the possibilities are endless. Here are articles we found helpful on the topic: How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don't Like Conflict 13 Ways Managers Can Initiate Tough Conversations With Employees How to Have Courageous Conversations at Work If you would like to receive impactful leadership tips and tools in the coming months, be sure to join our email list. Thank you for being on this journey with us. Spectrum Leadership Solutions Team

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