Conversation as a vehicle of transformation

Conversation as a vehicle of transformation

As I’m bringing another transformational leadership journey to its end, the reflections on what in our journey has been valuable to the leaders are at the forefront of conversations.

And it is exactly that I always hear as being the most life-changing for people; the conversations.

People are almost apologetic when they share that one of the things, they have valued the most was the new and different kinds of conversations they have been able to have with their colleagues, more than the training itself. Little do people know that to me it is the highest praise I can receive and a testament to the success of our work. Because what I know and they often forget is that an outcome of our group development work is to be able to have life-changing conversations.

Then I know that the work we have done together will not just be another nice training people have participated in, but that it will live on way past our time together. When we learn to have life-changing conversations, it is difficult to go back, and then work only continues to become more effortless and collaborations more powerful.

Consequently, as a part of my leadership development, I have included a concept I call courageous conversations. There is no set recipe as such for these conversations, their purpose and the principles they run on emerge from the conversations and dynamics of the individual groups.

What they have in common is first and foremost the relationship to our own inner world, and our ability to listen to our own and that of others, and the courage to share what we hear with the people we work with. The success of the conversation is contingent on people’s willingness to be courageous to share authentically from their inner world – hence the name.

Organizational Conversations

Conversations are the glue of organizational life; the conversations we have as well as the ones that never come to be are all powerful threads of interactions that weave the foundation for creation. Conversations are where change can happen, new insights be birthed, deeper understanding can land and creative solutions come into fruition.

I see two major reasons that organizations are not able to harness the fruit of conversations.

One is that they never take the time to have them, and the other is that they do not know how. Fruitful conversations is in opposition to all that organizations are normally driven by.

The reason valuable conversations take courage is that most – if not all – conversations in organizations happen from a conscious or unconscious desire to protect oneself. Protection one’s feelings, image, sense of worth, capability, position, status. It is rare that people talk to receive rather than to give. When conversations happen for the purpose of compensating for insecurities, preserving an impression of superiority and managing expectations, they will only create more misunderstanding, separation, complexity and often hurt, consequently cutting off all that makes people and organizations thrive.

When we develop trust in our inner world, begin to realize the damage we do to ourselves when we protect and defend ourselves, and begin to be more committed to our true, authentic Self rather than the limited and fearful version of ourself, the nature of our conversations changes. Conversations then becomes the vehicle where we can bring our authentic inner world into outer expression, and then we begin to work transformational miracles in organizations. We often times think that miracles are “big and shiny”, but in reality, they are small drops of everyday occurrences where we shift from fear and separation into love and understanding and end up creating a river. There is no river without small droplets of water.

There are many small stories of big victories that happen in courageous conversation, but here are just a few of the one’s that I have witnessed.

  • Old gaps in understanding between people that have worked together for years are suddenly bridged, opening up for deeper and more fulfilling relationships that make daily work easier. Like a pebble in a shoe, when small frustrations disappear, we all work more comfortably.
  • A deep understanding of how other people might perceive and create different meaning out of situations than oneself, and how to see that as a valuable thing that can inspire to better solutions rather than threaten one’s sense of worth and status, and being right.
  • Finding out that people are not alone in their daily struggles or in having experienced feelings of inferiority, which all of a sudden makes those feelings and experiences unthreatening in a corporate environment that often thrive on appearance of superiority.
  • Seeing how we are all carrying old wounds and trauma with us to work that influence the way we perceive and react to things, and how we can better meet those situations with compassion, helping ourselves and others to heal rather than to judge and create opinions about others.
  • People beginning to share their genius – because when we protect ourselves, we also suppress our genus, which is then never really being brought to the forefront of our contribution at work. When we release the desire to protect and defend ourselves, our authentic expression can come to the forefront and bring creative insight and truth to any situation.

Conversations are a powerful vehicle for transformation when approached from the right place within oneself. And that is the key; never once have the purpose of the developmental work I have done with leaders been to teach about conversations, and having conversations have never been a direct item on the agenda – they have been the natural outcome of the higher purpose of connecting deeper within oneself, and to take the courageous step towards higher principles of authenticity. I have just been the factor that provided people with the time for conversations and mirrored back what was already present within each of them. In that way, my work is easy – it is just to remind each person what already is within and to help them share that with the rest of the world.