Two years ago, I was invited by my daughter’s school in order to hold a conversation with the younger pupils, as they were reported to be increasingly stressed by all the things they heard and saw from their parents during the worst moments of the financial crisis. When, at the end, children asked me what job I was in, the simplest way I could describe it was: “I am helping very bright people to hold the conversations they need to have about their business”… The kids seemed to think this was a “cool job” as one of them stated and ever since, I believe this is truly an important part of our work.
Marcial Losada wrote a post on this blog about the fascinating work and research he ran on how to enrich our strategic conversations. I warmly recommend to those who haven’t read it yet, to go back and check it out! In short, Losada observed executive teams during strategic meetings. He was able to predict the business impact of their decisions just by looking at three indicators:
- “Other” vs “Self”: for Losada, participants to a “strategic conversation” should spend as much time talking from their own referential and perspective than being interested to others’ points of view and ways of thinking
- Inquiry vs advocacy: there should be as much time dedicated to exploring than to concluding
- Positive behaviours should be three to five times more than “toxic” behaviours.
Marcial’s work is centered on behaviours. However, in my own observations of Boardroom discussions, I am always astonished to see the prehistorical (let’s call them 1.0) conditions in which extremely competent executives meet, hoping to let emerge sophisticated decisions from neutrality driving set ups.
My partners and I came up with a simple set of opposing styles. Observe your meetings and decide where the cursor is in reality and where you would like it to be in order to create the right conditions for a truly strategic dialogueff:
- Logos only vs Logos, Ethos and Pathos: Is your meeting purely and only intellectual(ist) or do you pay attention to your behaviours (giving feedback to each other) and emotions (making this meeting a safe place for all to open up sincerely and authentically) as well?
- Broadcasting vs Engaging: Is your reunion a succession of “one man show” presentations, condemning the audience to passive consumption or are they designed so that all can be engaged, inducing active co-creation?
- PowerPoint driven vs flip-chart enabled: Slides projection can be a useful tool when showing an Excel simulation for example and we always observe that as soon as the projector switches on, the energy of participants switches off. A flip chart is an image of course but it enables co-creation and progressing together.
- Silo by silo (vertical) or systemic & collective (horizontal): In 1.0 meetings, participants sequentially show the results of their silo. Others patiently await their turn and pay attention not to challenge each other in order to ensure they won’t be grilled in return when on stage… 2.0 dialogues ensure that the topics are wider and of interest to all. Positive and well intended challenge is welcome as a sign of engagement and encouraged.
- Discovering (each other’s work during the meeting) vs Discussing (having prepared each other material): This is an old and classic; The infernal rhythm to which we constrain ourselves makes us go to the meeting and read materials sometimes carefully crafted by our colleagues during their presentation. A rich discussion can only take place if we all come prepared.
- Random individual contributions vs organized and structured dialogue: A clear indicator of the poor quality of your session are the “random contributions” from participants. These appear in the form of opinions, disjoint sequences of points of views, “single cause” speaker hijacking the conversation… A truly strategic discussion is structured, participants build on each other’s points, they facilitate the flow by parking diverging issues, allowing exploration but summarizing and refocusing as well when needed.
- Formal settings vs Informal settings: Chateauform is by far the most professional organization in offering ideal conditions for seminars and workshops of all kinds in Europe. I am however stunned to hear each time I go there (and to the relief of the clients we work with!) that the auditorium is already booked by another unfortunate organization. Auditoriums are conducive to edutainment and long sessions of broadcast. I am shocked to see how many organizations still poorly design their board rooms and meeting rooms. They all smell like distance to power, seniority is superiority and shout out loud an invitation to dive on your laptop while somebody else is presenting… Pathetic! I remember some of my most impressive breakthrough meetings to be sitting in the water on a beach in Praia do Forte (Bahia) with the management team of a bank, enjoying the panorama of the Mont Blanc with the Dutch partners of a tax law firm in Villars Switzerland or the session which changed the course of things for a French multinational under an oak tree.
I suggest you draw that list on a paper with a cursor between the extremes and agree with your team, before your meeting, of how you would like to run your next dialogue… 1.0 or 2.0?
Paris again (I am truly turning French!) for one of the most challenging Convention of the year: 350 participants plus Marcelo “Jimmy” Chiavone and his samba simulation with the Masters of the Vai-Vai School who just won the Sao-Paulo Carnival!!!
Have a great week all!