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Conversation in Leadership
Angelina Pechota #535845
Siena Heights University


Why is conversation important? Because you cant do anything without it. Conversation
is necessary in order to avoid confusion. Everyone understands the system and understands his
responsibilities within the system, so that they can carry them out. In order for any organization
to be truly successful over time, its people must build and maintain strong; professional
relationships with one another and that promote productive conversations about the work that is
to be accomplished. Unfortunately, such relationships do not come easily or naturally. They
require commitment, know-how, patience, and practice. Even then, successful outcomes cannot
be guaranteed. Failure to develop them though, usually guarantees frustrations, conflict, and
alienation between those who need to work together. When leaders are adept at conversations
they do much more than communicate effectivelythey drive stronger business results (Busine,
M. et al., 2014, cover).
In todays ever changing ways with new technologies, globalization and changes in how
companies create value and interact with customers our traditional corporate communication
must give way to a process that is more dynamic and more sophisticated. Most important, that
process must be conversational (Groysberg & Slind, 2012). A recent research project focused on
the state of organizational communication in the 21st century finding that most participants in the
survey expressed their ambition to advance the conversation within their companies. Thus,
they developed a model of leadership we call organizational conversation. This model instills
more of a person-to-person conversation rather than it does a series of commands when engaging
with employees fostering cultural norms that instill conversation's sensibility throughout their
organizations. By talking with employees, rather than simply issuing orders it allows a large or
growing company to function like a small one. Within the model they have identified four
elements that tend to reinforce one another: intimacy, interactivity, inclusion, and intentionality.


Intimacy prevails for those with decision-making authority seek and earns the trust of those who
work under them. "Conversationally adept leaders step down from their corporate perches and
then step up to the challenge of communicating personally and transparently with their
people"(Groysberg & Slind, 2012, p. 78). This leadership is more casual and less corporate and
is more about asking and answering questions and less about issuing and taking orders. Most
people, today, want to feel included, competent and accepted in the workplace. Gaining trust,
listening well, and getting personal is how conversational intimacy can become manifest in
various ways. Trust is hard to achieve within any organization where there is no trust there is no
intimacy. If people feel there is a hidden agenda, you will find they tend to be guarded and will
never divulge in any type of intimate conversation. A company will sometimes have to address
sensitive issues including sensitive data to earn the trust of its people although by doing so they
must be genuine and straightforward. One company, Athenahealth, have gone as far as opening
their books to each and every employee and treating them as insiders. This move was meant to
give them more than just an insiders view it was meant to get them more involved in the entire
business. Knowing when to stop talking and to start listening is a key success of that of leaders
who take organizational conversation seriously. True listening involves taking the bad with the
good, absorbing criticism even when it is direct and personaland even when those delivering it
work for you (Groysberg & Slind, 2012). The second element of organizational conversation is
Interactivity in which leaders talk with employees and not just to them. By definition, a personal
conversation is one that involves the exchange of comments and questions between two or more
people. When you have leaders that only talk at you and not with you, you find loyalty,
dependability and respect to be issues within the organization. Employees need to have the
organizations support to be able to come to them and speak up when needed. By doing so, we


close the gaps between leaders and their employees. Organizations prevailing culture has shown
to be problematic when implementing new ways and forms of corporate communication. Those
who have fostered a genuinely interactive culturevalues, norms, and behaviors that create a
welcoming space for dialogue have found it much easier to roll out these new methods. One
great example of this is John Chambers, Cisco Systems CEO. Cisco Systems sell various
products that fall under the social technology umbrella. He holds various forums to keep in
touch with his employees including a birthday chat that he leads about every other month.
These are open to any Cisco employee whose birthday falls in the relevant two-month period and
they allow its employees to speak openly without senior managers present. Chambers also
utilizes a video blog to speak with his employees directly chatting briefly and unscripted. This
may seem like a one-way conversation, but he also invites video messages as well as text
comments from his employees creating an interactive form of communication within the
organization. Inclusion is the third element of organizational conversation. Expanding
employees roles within an organization benefits an organization on many different levels.
Employees want to feel like they have a voice and want to be included. Enabling employees to
provide their own ideas and be included in on pivotal decisions creates a sense of ownership.
Once the spirit of inclusion takes hold, engaged employees can adopt important new roles such
as brand ambassadors, thought leaders, and storytellers. Brand ambassadors are employees who
feel passionate about their companys products and services; they become living representatives
of the brand. Thought leaders are consultants or in-house professionals that draft speeches,
articles, white papers, and the like. Storytellers can be outside the organization, but those from
within are the ones that are most sought after. Companies try to have a fair amount of control of
what its employees put out publicly but cultural and technological changes have eroded that


control to some extent. A companys reputation can be tarnished by a mere email, blog or even
by personal postings of a disgruntled employee(Groysberg & Slind, 2012).
The last and final element of organizational conversation is Intentionality, or the idea or
act of pursuing an agenda. In the new model of organizational conversation, a clear agenda
informs all communication where leaders carefully explain the agenda to employees. Thus, a
strategy emerges from a cross-organizational conversation. This model requires leaders to
explain strategic principles resulting in their people gaining a big-picture view of where their
company stands within its competitive environment. This strategy is one that is most beneficial
within the athletic field as well. When a coach explains out the game plan, and its strategies it
gives all the team members a big-picture view of what the team must do to overcome its
competition. Making the team aware of its opponents strengths and weaknesses through their
scouting reports enables them to take advantage of them, capitalize on those tendencies and put
the team in position to win the game.
Genuine conversation with the people who work for one and with one as a leader achieve
far more engagement and credibility today. Conversation goes on in every company, whether
you recognize it or not. That has always been the case, but today the conversation has the
potential to spread well beyond your walls, and its largely out of your control. Smart leaders
find ways to use conversationto manage the flow of information in an honest, open fashion.
But people will listen to communication that is intimate, interactive, inclusive, and intentional
(Groysberg & Slind, 2012, p. 84). Conversation is something we as leaders can control. We can
either have them or not, we make that choice. We have to invest in those within our circle and
with conversation we have the ability to do so.


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Workplace Performance through high-quality conversations. In Development Dimensions
International, Inc.. Retrieved February 7, 2014, from
Groysberg, B., & Slind, M. (2012, June). Leadership is a conversation: How to improve
employee engagement and alignment in today's flatter, more networked organizations.
In Harvard Business Review. Retrieved December 2, 2013, from https://hbr.org
Schein, Edgar H. Organizational Culture and Leadership. 4th ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
2010. Print.
Summitt, P. (1998). Reach for the summit. New York, NY: Broadway Books.


(Busine, M. et al, 2014, p.).


(Groysberg & Slind, 2012)

(Stevenson, L. et al, 2013, 2009, p. 69).