It’s The Foundation of Conversations That Matter

by Jay Deragon on 04/25/2013


A conversation can change everything if it is built on a good foundation. It can change a child’s sense of worth, a spouse’s sense of respect, an employee’s sense of being valued and a customer’s sense of being appreciated.  These kinds of conversations can create perpetual value and even when times get tough these kinds of conversations can turn things around. The foundation of these kinds of conversations is built on relationship capital.

A conversation can also create chaos, public relations nightmares, political turmoil, destruction of shareholder value, power shifts and media frenzies.  These kinds of conversations seem to grab a lot of attention like a burning building or a bad accident on the highway. These kinds of conversations are difficult to turn around because there is little foundation to turn the bad conversation into a good one.

Relationship capital is that intangible asset that translates into tangible results. While many consider intangibles invisible the fact is that conversations and the results of conversations are very visible, measurable and strategically important to any organization.

In an HBR article titled “Conversations Can Save Companies“, Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind state: A company that’s going in the wrong direction or losing money needs to change, and change fast, or soon it will be past the point of no return. Decide, act, decide, act: That must be the order of the day. Here is four ways conversations can help companies make the needed transformation.

  1. Talk straight. Conversational intimacy involves efforts by leaders to create and maintain a close connection with employees at every level of their company. And it requires leaders to be honest and authentic, especially when it comes to sharing bad news or addressing difficult topics.
  2. Make talk happen. When a company enters a turnaround crisis, it’s often in part because people in the organization have lost the ability to interact with each other. So conversationally adept leaders find ways to promote interactivity, critical debates, and relationship building. They deploy communication channels that allow for back-and-forth discussion, and they build a culture that fosters that kind of discussion.
  3. Let everyone talk. Conversation inclusion exists where leaders adopt measures that enable employees to participate fully in the communication process. By including people at all levels of a company in the organizational conversation, leaders can achieve a more intense quality of engagement among those who must carry out a turnaround project.
  4. Talk strategy — and talk strategically. In the 21st century, it is becoming harder and harder to orchestrate a successful turnaround without turning around the firm’s employee engagement and communication practices. And that means making them more intimate, more interactive, more inclusive, and more intentional.

The way you build relationship capital is by having a strong foundation of conversations that matter.


{ 1 comment }

Christopher S. Rollyson April 25, 2013 at 9:36 am

@Jay, Great post! I’d like to draw out a key element that’s between the lines: trust. Any worthwhile conversation can’t happen without it; it’s the meat of the barbecue. Trust enables people to take the chance to talk openly, for the truth or fear or happiness to emerge so other people can react and share at a higher level. Leaders, enterprises and brands make the huge mistake of *talking* about trust and culture and values, but their *actions* don’t reflect those things because “telling the truth” is risky. Leaders lead most effectively by example. That said, trust is even more impactful in transparent social networks; it’s a key element of my consulting practice, mentoring people on how to conduct themselves online so they engender more trust among people that matter most to their businesses. thanks again for a great post!

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