Conversations can be openings for our life to unfold in interesting and surprising ways, but first we must create the conditions for them to occur.
Frankly, ten years ago I wouldn’t have fully appreciated what it means to have these bigger conversations.
What does that really mean?
How do we know it when it happens?
In my case, I caught my first glimpse of something intriguing when I started interviewing experts and asking them “What is your best improvement strategy?”
The answers were surprising, deep, and unexpected. Not only for me but oftentimes for the person I was speaking with and others as well. In an Amazon review of my book 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success, one reader wrote:
I feel every one of the interviews provides valuable insight with many takeaways for the future. I wouldn’t doubt folks who read this literary piece will frequently be returning to review what they had read here in the past.-Mario Hyland, VP AEGIS.net
I recently had the opportunity to have a big conversation with Sarah Rozenthuler about the Forward-Thinking Workplace. Sarah is an expert on having big conversations and wrote a book about it. She is the author of Life Changing Conversations and is a psychologist, leadership coach, and the founder of Bridgework Consulting Ltd. In her book, she talks about the seven strategies that are needed to help people talk about what matters most and shares some of those ideas here.
There were three big ideas that stood out for me in this compelling interview that can lead us to having bigger conversations:
- People will only find their voice and share their thinking if they feel safe.
- Making a workplace more innovative and more fulfilling for human beings is to help people drop their mask and show up more authentically.
- Part of the journey is learning to manage difficult emotions in oneself and in other people.
So why is it important to have these bigger conversations?
Sarah says, “By enhancing our ability to talk together we can create the lives that we desire, for ourselves and for those whose lives we touch. If one of us finds the courage to talk, then another does, then another, this domino effect could even change the world.”
Sarah shares many more fascinating insights in the full interview below.
Welcome to this forum Sarah and thank you for contributing your valuable insights to the Exploring Forward-Thinking Workplace conversation.
How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
Sarah: It’s a big question with many dimensions to it. But if I just address the essence of it, one of the key things is to make the workplace psychologically safe and stimulating. People will only find their voice and share their thinking if they feel safe. Early on our ideas might be half-baked rather than anything really polished because often we refine our thinking in conversation with other people. In order for people to share those early thoughts, they need to feel safe. The combination of psychological safety and making it stimulating is a really interesting combination, so everybody can thrive.People will only find their voice and share their thinking if they feel safe.
I think people are increasingly recognizing that we can all wear a corporate mask and that there are parts of ourselves that we think are more socially acceptable or presentable. What is called for here in terms of making a workplace more innovative and more fulfilling for human beings is to help people drop some of that mask and show up more authentically. While it’s easy to say, I think that shift is actually quite challenging. Because in showing up more authentically, that also might be sharing parts of ourselves that feel more vulnerable and risky to share.What is called for here in terms of making a workplace more innovative and more fulfilling for human beings is to help people drop some of that mask and show up more authentically.
I like what the people at the Harvard Negotiation Project say about their work on conversations. One of the things they say is that difficult conversations are about difficult emotions. And actually, I think to break through to that more innovative and creative thinking and talking space, there’s often a difficult conversation to be had because there’s a diversity of perspective. Or there might be a degree of conflict. So actually, part of the journey is learning to manage difficult emotions in oneself and in other people. Inside of that, how much do I express? What’s appropriate? Dropping the corporate mask sounds simple, but it’s not easy.To break through to that more innovative and creative thinking and talking space, there’s often a difficult conversation to be had because there’s a diversity of perspective.
What does it take to get an employee’s full attention and best performance?
Sarah: It’s really important that people feel listened to. That, to me, is just fundamental. If people feel sidelined or feel that they’re an expendable resource or easily replaceable, they are not feeling valued as a human being. I know if that’s going on inside me, I wouldn’t be engaged. I wouldn’t be giving my best thinking to a project. Feeling listened to is absolutely critical.
Feeling stretched and stimulated and involved is important too so that there’s genuine curiosity from co-workers and other team members. For example, do people want to know what are your ideas or what has been your experience? Are you being asked to share your wisdom? What is the unique human being you are, what are you seeing? Are people properly engaged in a conversation.? It’s back to this combination of both feel supported and safe, but also feeling stretched and challenged as well.
Note: This is a preview of the full interview. The complete interview was selected by Apress for publication and continues in The Future of the Workplace.