Coaching Conversations

Leaders Need Conversational Navigation

June 27, 2021 Tim Hagen
Coaching Conversations
Leaders Need Conversational Navigation
Show Notes Transcript

This episode teaches a very simple concept called conversational navigation. It requires leaders and even non leaders to enter conversations willing to explore versus steering someone to get to a place that they may want that person to get to. Think about the most simplistic example a person with a negative attitude. Our destination is we want this person to be more upbeat and positive and we want them to get there quickly yet we have to ask ourselves some fundamental questions as a coach: why is this person possessing a negative attitude? What causes it? What are they willing to do to turn it around? This requires exploration versus trying to steer or direct someone to get to a destination... if it were that easy easy we probably wouldn't need a coaching industry.

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I would say in about the last three to four weeks I've noticed something very different, with clients, non clients, people in our industry. And there's a big change going on, and the changes well we're kind of getting back to normal, we're going to an all in office or a hybrid model. And it's almost like it's lulled people a little bit to sleep in, let me explain what I mean by that. Often when we have a major thing, such as a pandemic, it really intensifies us right, it gets us thinking oh my gosh what do we need to do to get through this time, a lot like the Great Recession in 2008 to 2010. And it really prompts us, it almost kind of grabs us, pinches us to say, be empathetic, be aware, be concerned about your employees, keep your eyes open, look for opportunities. And now we're kind of getting into that low. And what's really funny, is I've noticed a sequence of requests from clients, non clients, people that we talked to, and the requests are well, you know I was talking to this employee and, you know, it kind of went sideways, you know what should I do. This about this from a linear perspective, think about on the left side of the page you have an objective. And then on the far right side of the page you have a desired result. It's not a straight line, we want it to be a straight line, it's not a straight line.

And I was leading the session, and one of the L&D directors of this client site said, I've never heard you use the term conversational navigation. I said, Oh really, and he said, No, I've never heard you use that term and conversational navigation is when I go into coaching conversations, people who are experienced in coaching people who are really gifted certified not certified but have coaching conversations all the time. We often go into conversations saying ourself. We don't know where it's going to go, and we're okay with that, and it hits me. That's one of the foundational struggles leaders have. I've got someone with a bad attitude so they need to have a good attitude and I want to get there. Doesn't work that way. So why do they have a bad attitude? Why is someone who's not motivated, why are they unmotivated, what's causing it?

 And I had a conversation with a leader who she was really quite concerned not upset concerned, and she was talking about one of our employees and how they are lacking motivation, and she tactically went right to the end. He's got to be more motivated, we need this job done and she just went on and on about the job, and I said, I want to ask you something, and you're gonna think I'm really condescending or humorous, and I know her pretty well. And she said, what, I said, What motivates him? And I completely interrupted her thought pattern, because what she was doing was, she was jumping to the end saying, I got to get him here now. And the guy who she's coaching is throwing curveballs. So she would leave the meeting she'd leave frustrated. And she said, Well, what I need is not what I asked you what I asked you was, what motivates for you answer, not only what motivated him, but I'm gonna ask you a really blunt question. Is she comfortable sharing that, you know it brought my tone down, and she just stopped, we're on a zoom call, and she looked at me she goes, I don't know. That's awesome. So you don't even know what motivated them. So you're trying to motivate, she said, that doesn't sound right. And I said, No, it doesn't, listen I make the same mistake. So she went back to this gentleman and she said, Look, I don't care what your answer is, yet I want and authentic, I want to you to be honest with yourself so you can be honest with me. I really don't want you to worry about your response. What really motivates you? Inside the job, and maybe even things outside the job. And I prompted her I said when you hear things, just listen, don't respond, use something called Bridge statements. Tell me more, could you elaborate, how come, interesting, you know, how would you describe that. Bridge statements keep people talking. She calls me up and she said, within eight minutes, I knew more about this guy than I did the year before. 

So when we're leaders and we're driving and we're tactical and we have this end destination. It's not a straight line. And a lot of times we don't know how we're going to get people that we want to get them there in a straight line because in theory the straight line takes less time, it does not. 

So what she found out that this gentleman felt very pigeon holed in his job. He was lacking motivation. He felt like, you know, it's a job. He was not inspired by the job. When she asked the question, what would you like to do, he said, Honestly, I don't know. So she called me and she said, What do we do with that? I said, Well, one, you can help him explore it. Now you can have some clear conversations, what does it look like if you're doing something tomorrow morning that you're not doing today, describe what that would look like. So over time, she started to have these conversations. And what they found out was, he mentally did not want to be in that seat. So we can try to motivate and inspire and to all these great things as it relates to the job, the person, the person's mindset was not there. So that was so cool about it she said, You know it's so interesting. Now that I know this, I look back and I interrupted her and I said, Now do things in the past make a lot more sense because totally. She said, How did I miss that I said, I think you were trying to go from here to here, in a straight line. And you may have left navigation. She said, What do you mean by that, as a conversational navigation is when we get into a conversation and we navigate within the conversation without steering, conversational navigation is, how do I learn, what can I learn about this person. What are this person's triggers, their motivators, their inspirations, what do they ultimately want. I don't try to get to a destination that desired place right away, because it comes at the expense of conversation. 

I think one of the greatest things that we can do in the workplace is have leaders do something called listening chats. And I have to tell you, we have had a number of companies do these, and they will tell you, it is so hard. And it is so frustrating. The funny thing is it's actually very simple in theory, a convert, listening chat is a part of conversation navigation but a listening chat as he calls them in the office, and you say, Susie, tell me what you're going through. What are some things you're seeing on the front lines, educate me like I would know. And then tell me what you think we could do better, and the role of a listening chat is to just listen. Not rebuttal, not interrupt, not give an opinion, not negate what they're saying, even if they say something wrong, and I've had leaders come back and say, I left so frustrated. I said, Why? They said, Because a couple of the things they said were out of context and it wasn't true, to, you can still go back. I said, But what do you think you earned in that moment, by just listening. Every person says trust. So right, had you said opinion's wrong or no no you're wrong, right you've taken this out of context. Do you think that person's coming back to your office door willingly. Probably not. Conversational navigation is going in, knowing that you have a destination, but not trying to steer them, their conversational navigation is to learn and to take a wiggly road, to take a diversion and explore it, to learn as much as they can. When we have conversations where we walk out learning two or three new things about our employees or the people we're coaching, we are ahead of the curve. We will get to the destination quicker. A lot of times, we want to go in a straight line, that often leads to something called a directive. Conversational navigate this, we're going to take different places, different roads, different tours, different paths to get there. But when we do get the information we get a higher quality, higher integrity, because we're just having a conversation. Trust me when I say when leaders try to steer and get somebody there, they know they're being steered. Sometimes they'll just give the answers that the leader wants. Conversational navigation takes practice and a willingness to explore.