One of the reasons that people often give for not taking a more conversational approach to their work is the lack of time. Many even see it as a waste of time. But it is not!
It is through conversation that we learn, make better sense of the world, glean insights, spot new opportunities and avoid pitfalls.
The time invested in a conversation almost always has a payback and saves time in the longer term.
There is never enough time to do everything we would like to do in a day.
The real issue is that we do not see conversation as being important and do not prioritize it.
If you need to cut down a tree, taking the time to “sharpen the saw” is not a waste of time. It is an investment.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Credit: Abraham Lincoln
How much time is wasted in organizations every day because people repeat mistakes; do work that is not needed; do things the hard way when there are easier ways and miss opportunities to do transformational things?
Time can be saved by:
- Surfacing unknown problems and issues by using Knowledge Cafés and breaking down silo working.
- Running peer assists to learn from others before starting a project. These need not be formal – just having a conversation with a project leader who has run a similar project in the past over coffee will pay dividends.
- Talking to someone face to face rather than emailing them may seem to be inefficient, but email can cause problems when things are miss-communicated or misunderstood, and we can irreparably damage trust and relationships.
- Perform frequent, short, sharp after action reviews to learn from what has just taken place and avoid similar mistakes in the future.
All of these and more can save massive amounts of time in the longer term and frequently prevent the failure of projects or other endeavors.
Also, much conversational working does not require extra time but just taking a different approach to things. The following require little or no extra time:
- Making a meeting or a presentation more conversational.
- Taking a conversational approach to management training rather than a traditional lecture-based one.
- Running a 5 minute after action review after a one hr meeting.
- Talking to someone face to face or on the phone rather than emailing them.
- “Speaking up” in a meeting.
- Listening with the intent to improve thinking than the “intent to reply.”
- Eating lunch with people rather than taking a sandwich at your desk.
Leveraging conversation at its best is about designing and convening conversations around critical business issues or developing corporate strategy.
The payoff of involving everyone and the engagement, accountability, and commitment that ensues can be enormous.
As Stephen Covey would say, we need to sharpen the saw.
Conversation is rarely a waste of time – “conversation sharpens the saw.”
This page is part of an online book on Conversational Leadership that I am in the process of writing.
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