The conversations we have with ourselves and with others determine our ability to respond to the unexpected. Using different conversation types also will build improvisation ability. Begin with the following three:
• Conversation to create new possibilities.
• Conversation for action.
• Conversation for change.
To initiate a conversation that will create new possibilities, identify what is desired and envision it. Product innovations, new organization structures and new positions all begin with this type of conversation. It can help to guide sessions where leaders brainstorm new ideas, propose solutions to problems, uncover ideas from peers and team members or unravel a topic that is unclear.
Ways to begin a conversation to create new possibilities include:
• If we waved a magic wand and the problem was solved, how would we know? What would be different?
• What would you like to create?
• I have an idea I’d like you to consider. I’d like to hear your ideas, too.
• What are the options? Can we come up with three or more that we have not considered before?
• Let’s consider this in a new way, put our puzzle pieces on the table and see where that takes us.
• If there were no limitations, what resources would you ask for?
• Someone invented the rules we are holding onto like they are set in stone; what rules are holding us back that we could consider renegotiating?
After exploring options, flow into a conversation for action. This conversation type builds momentum. Use it to identify the next step, gain agreement on goals and move forward.
Ways to begin a conversation for action include:
• What is the next action needed to move this forward?
• Then what? Then what next?
• What would you do next if failure was not possible?
• Is there a map we could draw that would show the sequence of action steps we are considering?
When attempting to change beliefs or behavior, conversations will have to evolve. Bring others along to understand how one way of thinking or operating transitions to something new and why they should consider the new idea. One can bring people along using a conversation for change. Prompt dialogue to show others what has changed so they have an opportunity to respond and contribute step by step.
Use a conversation for change when:
• A new leader joins an organization or team.
• A team member’s performance is not meeting expectations.
• Significant change is needed or has just occurred.
• Boundaries need to be changed or reinforced.
• You need to open a dialogue about current reality and the desired state.
• There is a new project on the agenda.
Ways to begin a conversation for change include:
• What would need to exist for us to … ?
• I am noticing shifting sands. Are you experiencing this as well?
• Google and Apple created positive changes, and we could, too, if we …
• The current reality requires us to make some changes. Let’s talk about how we can respond to this experience.
• If we got in front of the changes we think are coming, what would that look like?
• What would you like the new normal to be?
• Do you ever find yourself saying, “When we get through this crazy period of change, everything will return to normal”?
That’s a problem because we will be faced with ongoing change, and we need to accept and learn how to deal with change. One trend I’ve noticed that may bring about positive shifts is ….
A flexible menu of conversation options enables improvisation to flow smoothly.
Shawn Kent Hayashi is an emotional intelligence and interpersonal communication coach and the author of Conversations for Change: 12 Ways to Say It Right When It Matters Most. She can be reached at email@example.com.