I was speaking to a client at the beginning of the week and he was talking about a meeting that he had attended the previous week that had not resulted in anything positive from his point of view.
This got me thinking about the quality of the conversations and interactions that happen at work and about having conversations with consequences – it also challenged me to make sure that the conversation with him was insightful, useful and had lots of positive take aways!!
A Conversation With Consequences sounds serious, and it is, if you look at it from the point of view that every conversation you have should have an outcome and (hopefully positive) consequences, or if not, what’s the point, you might as well save your breath.
It seems that much of our time at work is spent in meetings, on conference calls and in discussions, all of which are meant to move the business forward in some way, that’s what you’re paid to do.
When you reflect on the interactions you have had this week, have all of your conversations had an outcome or a consequence? Or have you spent valuable meeting time thinking about stuff that’s not on the agenda, or allowing yourself to be distracted by interesting but fairly meaningless conversations that have no outcome or follow-up actions.
I agree that the discussion element of an interaction plays a vital part in exploring possibilities and shaping future activity, but I’m curious about how much time is wasted in conversations that don’t have a tangible outcome or positive result. How much time at work is just spent talking and not really achieving anything?
So……how can you shift your conversations up a gear to ensure there are positive consequences for all those involved?
You could invest in a TIM (Time is Money), a simple gadget that calculates how much money is wasted at a meeting by multiplying the number of people present with their average hourly wage and the amount of time spent. For every second spent in your meetings you can see the cost escalating. It’s certainly one way of focusing your mind, but ultimately it’s just a gadget that might help you to have shorter, more purposeful meetings!
Perhaps a more effective approach is to spend just a little time before every conversation that you have thinking about what you need the conversation to achieve. Think about your desired outcome; what positive consequences do you want at the end of it?
In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven R. Covey tells us to ‘begin with the end in mind’, and I have always found this a simple yet powerful concept, helping me to keep my thoughts and actions on track and ensuring that my interactions and conversations are purposeful. It hasn’t inhibited my curiosity or need to explore before I come to a conclusion, but it has helped me to cut down on the meetings and conversations that I walk away from thinking “well, that was a big waste of time!”
Here’s a quick guide to conversations with consequences……
Before your conversation:
1. Decide what positive consequences you want from your interaction; how will things be different as a consequence of the conversation?
2. Ask the others involved what positive consequences they want
3. Ask yourself, what type of interaction is going to get you to your outcome, then set up an appropriate format and behave in a way that creates that type of interaction you need
During your conversation:
4. At the beginning, review and agree your outcomes for the meeting, being realistic about the time you have and the people who are involved. Make sure you know what your priorities are.
5. Keep your outcome clearly visible during the meeting and revisit it often to check your progress
6. Note down decisions, actions and great ideas as you go so nothing is lost or overlooked and there is good evidence of the quality of your interaction
At the end of the conversation:
7. Review your actions and allocate sponsors for each one along with a deadline for completion
8. Note anything that has yet to be discussed and agreed and carry forward
9. Make a commitment to take action as a result of the conversation, and keep your promise.
Finally you can feel that glow of satisfaction that says you’ve achieved your outcome, and had a Conversation With Consequences. Good luck with your conversations and we’d love to hear about your successes!