How to turn Conversation and Morale into Fuel for Your Scaling Engine

I remember quite clearly in 2015, I had a conversation over the phone with a senior learning and development of a firm. This person had called me to identify a possible solution for a problem. However, this person was also notoriously heavy-handed and iron-fisted.

Hearing her issue about how change was not taking place in her organization (which, according to my observation was indeed slow due to a silo mentality), I identified that the core issue was that communication was not taking place in an honest fashion, and it was necessary to establish the right level of collective cohesion first prior to tackling the issue of holding a proper conversation together. My hypothesis was that if you could get people to speak together, they could then learn to think together.

I got a response that I did not expect.

“I don’t want to have people sitting around in groups chit-chatting and wasting their time,” she snapped. This, just after I had a similar session with an $11Bn company with higher international repute carrying out a feedback session internally with the same facilitation approach I had just proposed. At first, I was tempted to defend my position. But knowing her fiestiness and aggressiveness, I decided that it was not a worthwhile risk for me. Hence, in spite of being a $3bn dollar company, they encountered massive inefficiencies and issues with team morale.

Many years later, thinking about this, I hear that the same organization is facing the same issue, and nothing has changed. This was because a former classmate had joined this organization, and shared the state of affairs there.

The pattern you can detect is probably obvious to most. That a person in an organization demands results without rapport, it is no wonder why a silo mentality is happening. The only way to break a silo mentality is to get people to experience working together with a common goal, and guide them toward working well together in a trusted environment. Demonstrate the value you bring to the team. Not threaten them with deadlines and comparisons. In that organization, people remain rigid rather than adaptive because they have a misguided impression that this is what makes their organization effective. However, in the present VUCA environment, such a view of business can no longer be accurate.

This is primarily a limitation of leadership awareness and execution because the greatest form of leadership is one where an individual is able to observe and be aware of the situation, adapt to the circumstances and change oneself in order to create a change externally. Philosophically, this is how I have seen great leaders adapt to new circumstances. They change because they want the situation to change!

I’ve discovered that conversation is the central piece of the puzzle. Any leader that does not develop conversational skills (I’m not talking about chit-chat either) will end up in a lot more trouble than is worth. The six key conversations are in a framework I developed:

Most managers are good at building their capacity for setting targets and expectations and managing performance through feedback. This is great for creating results, but not necessarily the best approaches to build an effective team.

The current landscape suggests we have to be better at the other four conversations based on the key outcomes we want for our businesses. I’ll spend time on another article to share these six different conversations and what they entail in a subsequent post.

Key Business Outcome #1: Energy and Passion for What You Do.

It is not uncommon for large and old organizations to not resonate with this. They typically will go through a re-evaluation of their purpose. This is the same thought that new businesses have – what is my passion and how can I pursue it as a business?

This kind of outcome requires envisaging the future, and being present with something that drives up one’s energy. It is the moment where going to work itself is a joy.

For those who are unable to get up in the morning to get work done, energy is a crucial part of the focus that must be dealt with first. I have helped a number of people get clear about their passion, and also to realign those who have lost their fire to reignite it. If I know someone has lost their fire, I certainly do NOT want to bank of setting expectations, but rather explore on a personal level what drives their energy and potentially reallocate them to new and more meaningful work.

Key Business Outcome #2: A meaningful and valued contribution to the world.

Businesses begin their product and service delivery when customer segments start to value what is being delivered. Hence, they are willing to pay for them, and the revenue model is validated. Unfortunately, many business only focus on this but do not have a plan to stabilize and systemize their operations, leading to complications in their operational capacity and customer service backlash.

If an employee is disengaged, you will find that they are likely to feel they are valued in something else. It may well mean that what they are doing is meaningless! Consider conversing about what they need to develop to get to where they need to go.

For solopreneurs, I find that this is all about inner alignment. I use a methodology in NLP called an alignment conversation to help people uncover and remove the mental blockages that prevent them from pursuing their raison d’tere.

Key Business Outcome #3: Teams as a Competitive Advantage.

There is almost one key variable when it comes to billion dollar revenue businesses. All of them have arrived through fulfilling the first three business outcomes. And, there is usually no less than a thousand people in the business. And it follows that the more people you hire, the more likely the business will surpass previously held benchmark revenue numbers. However, one key thing to know is that teams are a black box of competitive advantage. The way you treat them, develop them and utilize them will enable them to be more innovative around product, service, customer interactions and process deployment if they learn how to do so. The reason is because this outcome sets the stage for the next thing to happen which is to generate a business that grows financially.

In larger organizations, the key to this outcome is whether or not leaders are developed. I’ve done my part in many organizations to coach leaders to make a difference. For instance, even though a leadership development program was in place, I helped this one CEO with physical energy and fitness ideas, which multiplied his ability to bring more energy to his conversations.

In smaller organizations, the key is whether the team members are empowered and trained to execute actions that fulfill the company’s visions and ideas. In solopreneurships, teams need not be hires. They could be collaborators in the business who have a vested interest in masterminding with you and generating better ideas together for win-win results. This calls for the ability to think creatively and generate ideas well, and also to be mindful of the process of operations that the business is working on, so they are not thinking off the top of their head, but rather on paper, even if it is digital these days.

Key Business Outcome #4: Financial Stability and Growth.

This outcome can only be achieved when there is a form of optimization in the business. When looking at the market, it is comprised of customers. A close connection or conversation with customers will enable clarity of knowledge about what trends and needs there are. In addition, it means that conversations must be conducted to establish partnerships and networks for revenue growth and stability. Consider that a large conglomerate can rejuvenate itself by investing in acquisitions. A smaller business can arrive at financial stability through a series of strong affiliate partnerships where revenue is driven by good partners. I doubt you can carry this out without strong skills of influence.

Key Business Outcome #5: Achieving Scale.

The pathway to scale therefore dictates that one has to have achieved the first four outcomes and arrived as a certain level of optimization first so that scaling doesn’t break the business. For instance, scale is very frequently achieved through the use of advertising. But if advertising is done and staff are not trained adequately (consider your mobile phone operator and its service quality, for example), you can gain customers and lose them in the same day.

So scale is a function of the revenue model, the hiring model, the mission, the energy to drive the mission, as well as the resourcefulness of the team. A person who has achieved scale and has helped people to do the same would be Alvin Poh, and you can get his insights to getting people to the 7 and 8 figure mark in his book SuperScaling.

Conclusion

There’s no other way to transfer ideas other than some form of communication. I would dare say that conversation, even over just a cup of coffee to get to know someone, is crucial. And yes, you could call it a “chit-chat session” that makes a difference.

But as a leader, you also need to make effective decisions about people. You want to study human behavior, understand the elements of mindset, clarify cognitive patterns of thinking and even patterns of personality. You can get sharper at identifying how to work with them better. You will probably even be able to motivate them and support them the way they like to be supported. I hope you don’t underestimate the importance of effective communciation.

Zig Ziglar once said that you can get anything you want in life that you want, as long as to help enough other people get what they want. I think the first conversation that anyone smart enough to initiate would therefore begin with the words “what do you need so I can be mindful of supporting you“.

See also  Leadership Coaching

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