Although, it feels like a bit of an eternity since this complete chaos has started. It’s actually only now that your mettle will be tested.
And just to reiterate, the entire purpose of this leadership in chaos podcast, that we started 16 weeks ago, was to ensure that your leadership reputation is not the casualty.
In this episode we share why conversations are key to maintaining a positive relationship with your people.
Episode16 Conversations in Chaos Part1
[00:00:00]I don’t know about you, but many people now are being worn out by lockdown. What do we get as a reward for the stoic conformity that we’ve applied in the last four months, we get [00:01:00] even more uncertainty, uncertainty about the virus, uncertainty about permissions to travel uncertainty about schools, reopening uncertainty about our economy, not to mention even our health.
[00:01:12] At the start of this chaos, many governments did pretty well in terms of creating clarity, stay home, save lives. This is more recently been replaced by the mantra, “stay alert”. Now, can anybody explain to me what that means? Even in Ireland where the government did a really good job at the start, ambiguity and contradiction has started to creep into the messaging.
[00:01:40] You have one government agency who’s telling us not to travel. Whilst another government agency at the same time is telling us that we need to open our country for tourism. This ambiguity and mixed messaging is being amplified around the world. And as we look out, what we see is [00:02:00] a stage that is slowly unraveling. As humans, we’ve gone from the initial state of good grace. To a state now of bad humour. There may not be much comfort in this, but this is exactly what we saw back in 2008, 2009, 2010 in the last crisis, as it began to unfold. Things went from a state of initial solidarity to one of deep division. And here we’ve gone from a state of we’re all in this together to a position of us versus them.
[00:02:35] Although, it feels like a bit of an eternity since this whole chaos has started. It’s actually only now that your mettle is going to be tested. And just to reiterate the whole purpose of this leadership in chaos podcast, that we started 16 weeks ago, was to ensure that your leadership reputation is not the casualty.
[00:02:56] So what’s actually happening out there that’s creating this [00:03:00] sense of feeling of agitated friction? Well, back to our basics. The chaos and the uncertainty are even more present now than they were at the start, which predicates the survival brain. So the primal side of us. It does two things. One thing is it creates certainty that we’re right.
[00:03:20] And the second thing is it creates binary thinking. And binary thinking polarizes us, it polarizes us into absolute positions. Good, bad. Right or wrong. Us or them. In or out. So the emerging challenge for you as a leader, ultimately is how do I keep my people and myself at their best, when feelings and opinions are becoming more polarized. The solution lies in conversations and conversations are the wallpaper of humanity. Why? Because we’re [00:04:00] surrounded by them. They’re ubiquitous to the point where they become invisible to us and we simply take them for granted. However, there is nothing like a conversation or with the power of a conversation to either connect us or to divide us.
[00:04:20] And when I say conversations, conversations, take a few different forms. The face to face has been demoted in place of video or audio, and then there’s electronic. And whilst each of these is happening in abundance throughout the day in every organization. In fact, one organization in the retail sector calculated that they have more than 250,000 conversations on a daily basis across their network.
[00:04:54] And although we don’t always think about it this way, every conversation matters; [00:05:00] because it’s the impact of the conversation that gets things done and nothing moves forward without the conversation. I’ve yet ever to see a project deliver itself, or a strategy implement itself.
[00:05:14] Nothing happens without the oil of human conversation. It’s the oil that greases the machine. Many of us are experiencing or about to experience some difficult or tough conversations that need to happen over the coming days and weeks. And here’s typically what people do when they’re preparing for such a conversation.
[00:05:39] They go out and they find all the data, all the facts, all the information and all the evidence that supports their point of view. Meanwhile on the other side, the other person’s doing exactly the same. And that’s typically how we prepare we both, or all of us arsenal up and we turn up for the day of battle. [00:06:00]
[00:06:00]It’s like a conversation arms race, and it entails mutually assured destruction or M.A.D. for short. Whoever wins might win the battle, but they’d have lost the war. And the war is around your reputation. Very often people pay a very heavy price for the privilege of being right. What’s left in the wake of such a conversation is what we call residue.
[00:06:27]Instead of having pure oil for our conversation, there’s grit in the oil and we know the gritty oil creates wear and tear on the system, that can ultimately lead to break down. Symptoms of residue typically fall into one of two categories. The first category is a loss of clarity.
[00:06:45] And remember how important clarity has been all the way through the series so far. And this is a bit like having a bucket with a hole in it, because it’s about inefficiency where you’re pouring more and more into the top of the bucket. And it’s going up the [00:07:00] bottom as fast as it’s going in. It typically manifests itself through rework ,wasted effort, competing agendas, wasted resources, more meetings, inbox swell.
[00:07:11] The second manifestation of residue comes through a loss of commitment. And again, we talked about this in earlier episodes. This is a little bit like after the conversation, things just don’t feel right. You don’t feel the same towards the project. The people, the team, what this results in is less discretionary effort from people. More blame. Breakdowns in trust. Cover your ass, where looking good is more important than doing good. During the last crisis, what crippled organizations in their efforts to rebuild their organizations and recover from the crisis was the residue that had been created at precisely this time. When we went from a state of solidarity to a state of discord.
[00:07:59] The good [00:08:00] news is that we have direct control or influence as leaders in the way in which we approach and conduct our conversations. The research demonstrates clearly it’s a garbage-in-garbage out system. What we put into it is exactly what we get out of, which influences the outcome. In the next episode, we’re going to begin to explore how to avoid residue and how to approach conversations in ways that gets to mutually agreeable solutions as opposed to mutually assured destructions. And finally, just to say, our podcast listenership has grown pretty extensively and exponentially in the last few weeks. And it’s grown because people like you who are listening to it, and who’ve really enjoyed it, have invited others so I just want to say thank you for that and please continue to do that, if you find it useful. In the meantime, stay safe, stay sane, stay [00:09:00] connected.