Aligning Leadership Through Powerful Conversations

By Steve Zuieback · Posted Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Please treat yourself and read Tim Dalmau's entire article on the Seven Conversations of Leadership. I want to summarize the seven conversations here and then explore ways that you might convene and facilitate conversations that involve an entire leadership team.

The seven leadership conversations can take place at three levels - by an individual leader, a leadership team or by an outside party who have observed or experienced leadership in an organization. That outside party might be a coach, consultant or employees working with a leader or leadership team.

The purpose of these conversations could be to:

  • Examine the fit between a leader or team and the needs of their system.
  • Assist in an overall diagnosis of a system relative to embarking on a major change initiative.
  • And more commonly, to identify the necessary shifts in leadership philosophy and strategy to better position an organization for future success. 

The chart below summarizes the seven conversation domains, questions and the leadership levels. Tim talks about these layers of conversation being like the layers of an onion starting with the context, moving to purpose, identity, values, perspectives, strategies and behaviors. Each level is dependent and influenced by the preceding layers. The questions below focus on the current state of leadership. Ideally these conversations represent a journey not an event - they occur over time and on a repetitive basis. The facilitation process involved in convening these conversations can be simple or complicated depending upon the level of health of the leadership team. For more information about process read my companion article to the Seven Conversations of Leadership.

How to engage a challenging leadership team in these important conversation. 

Obviously and unfortunately many leadership teams are less than high-functioning and the facilitation process is not straightforward. These may be teams where little safety exists or where little leadership is actually demonstrated. At the outset I would say that process selection is essential. A range of process choices is available in our book, Leadership Practices for Challenging Times. The book is arranged to help you make the right process choices.

The following are 5 tips to consider no matter what process you ultimately select. To read the entire article that features more information and strategies, click here.

1.Create a sense of possibility. 

2.Create an objective analysis of the current state.

3.Select processes that create safety, transparency and build trust. 

4.Identify and build upon the positive attributes of the leader and leadership team.

5.Build common ground and find simple steps the team can take to begin building success in their new way of operating.

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