‘Genuine conversations’ are a cornerstone of the Leading Teams model. To create a high-performing team, you need to operate in an environment where team members can be honest and constructive with one another.
At Leading Teams, we believe in the importance of genuine conversations and their value in driving team performance. But we know they cannot stand alone.
Genuine conversations are facilitated by the presence of:
1. A common purpose for the team – are you absolutely clear on why you exist as a team and why your individual role (and those of your colleagues) are in that team?
2. Strong professional relationships – you have to put time and energy into building and maintaining your relationships to be able to have conversations around behaviour and performance. But you will reap the rewards of doing so because people improve when given feedback by someone with whom they have a strong relationship.
3. An agreed behavioural framework – it’s important to establish which behaviours are acceptable and which are not.
Be clear about what a genuine conversation is
There are lots of misconceptions about genuine conversations. We’ve clarified a few of the most commonly debated points below.
- Genuine does not mean difficult. Far from it. Provided the intention is to improve the individual’s, or team’s, performance then all feedback is useful. In the majority of cases, significant time and effort goes into preparing for a genuine conversation to make sure it isn’t difficult.
- It’s not an opportunity to take potshots at your colleagues. We use a number of tools and techniques to teach teams and individuals to build their capacity to have conversations when they need to have them and peer reviews (where one person receives direct feedback from the whole team) are just one method. If in doubt refer back to your agreed behaviours – are you living up to your framework when you’re having the conversation?
- The problem won’t just go away by itself. It is better to address the issue when it arises – use the right message, in the right place at the right time. If you leave it until the problem worsens and tensions are running high you are not having a genuine conversation: you are venting.
- Giving and receiving feedback is easy. It’s not, but it is important. Providing useful and constructive feedback is a skill, and it’s one that is worth investing time and effort to build.
When do you have a genuine conversation?
Start by getting the three things we mention at the start of the article – clarity of purpose, strong relationships, agreed behaviours – in place. If you’ve got these, you’ve got the basis for a genuine conversation.
And then ask yourself these questions: is my motive for saying something pure? By this we mean are you entering into the conversation with the aim of improving the situation or are you (albeit subconsciously) trying to put someone down or make yourself look superior? Do I believe what I’m saying to be true? At that moment in time, can you hand-on-heart state that the issue you are raising is authentic?
If the answer to both of these is yes, then it’s time to step up and say something – you’re ready to have a genuine conversation.
- Watch Ray McLean, below, describe a genuine conversation he experienced.