Leadership on a Napkin

Lesson 3:
Elevate your team’s dialogue

There are three levels of conversation your team could be in:

The lowest level of communication

This is most common and when people talk in open-ended, hypothetical terms.

This sounds like: “I wonder what would happen if we did this…?”, “It would be interesting to see how this turns out…”

At this level of dialogue, people tend to avoid asking direct questions and getting clear answers. Instead of talking clearly and straight they dance around the topics and don’t drive for resolution. So, things tend to take forever to move.

The middle level of communication

This is where people actually ask direct questions and get clear answers.

This sounds like: “Do you feel this way?”, “How do you feel about this?”, “Do you agree or disagree with me?”.

At this level the team can start having effective and authentic conversations because people are beginning to display courage in asking direct questions and colleagues are being asked to respond authentically. However, at this level team members are not necessarily committing to powerful action effectively and with high ownership.

The highest level of communication

This is when people go beyond clarity and authenticity to making powerful requests and promises, and ensuring they get clear committed responses.

This sounds like: “I request that you deliver this specific summary by our meeting tomorrow”, “I promise all the sales reps will be briefed and aligned on this new policy by Friday”.

Requesting and promising is the language of accountability and ownership. There is a robust ‘protocol’ for keeping this level of communication effective. Some of the key principles include:

  1. Requests and promises must have a clear measurable result, clear time frame, and a clear speaker and listener (What, When and Who).
  2. When someone makes a request the listener (receiver) can “accept”, “decline” or “counter offer”.
  3. If someone can’t fulfill their promise they have to acknowledge that immediately and work with the requester to resolve how the relevant outcome can still be fulfilled. People are not off the hook when they can’t deliver their promise.
  4. The team must create an authentic and courageous space for people to be able to decline or counter offer in order to avoid a lip-service environment.

When this level of communication is ingrained in the DNA of your team you have a high-performance team environment.