“‘Come what may’ is unpatriotic.” – Akan proverb
We all chatter – and we do this everywhere, especially in the workplace where we spend an estimated third of our days. Interestingly, with all the talk about harnessing talents and potential within the business environment, conversations are missing from that list. Maybe it is not strange, because conversations come so easily to us. Conversations take more of our time than any other activity. We make them while working and we use them to idle the time away. Conversation is perceived more as a social experience than an energy that can be harnessed for productivity. But what if we started thinking out of the box, and turned all the conversations we have at the workplace into productive energy? Can you imagine the result?
Conversations are the medium by which we share our perceptions on everything about life. In the workplace, they bring out the thoughts of employees – from the moral state of the organisation’s value system, to the essence of working within that particular environment, to the sterility of harassment and discrimination. When we converse, we pour out our understanding of life.
Conversations can be likened to preparing dinner with a recipe; we get to appreciate the ingredients that have cooked the opinion of others. And so, the more we converse the more we get to appreciate their strengths and understand why they are weak in other areas. It is the means through which we can influence individuals, attitudes and cultures; be it organisational or societal. Conversations, when steered strategically, are cultural provocateurs.
Whether we know it or not, and whether we appreciate it or not, the number-one requirement for generating ideas is conversations. The same is required for inspiring change in attitudes and everything else. In an era when life is characterised by ambivalence, we need conversations to help us distinguish facts from beliefs and opinions.
We need conversations grounded in facts while abounding in disagreements, so that we can understand where we stand individually and build bridges to the points where facts reside – and, ultimately, to truth. But for that to happen, we need leaders who understand that their role ought not to be to push their views down their followers’ throats, but to rather engage them in conversations so they can answer their nagging questions.
It is no secret that many leaders view conversationalists as wastrels. This is so because they assume talking business is what efficiency is all about. What they miss is that without real and true engagement – that which conversations provide – it is almost impossible to take advantage of synergies, economies of scale and the shared risk that brings about efficiency. Conversations are what connect us to people. They are the soul of all relationships, whether at the workplace or at home. Sadly, what pertains in many work environments is the art and act of giving and receiving orders. The greater number among us are in so much of a hurry to give an order or receive one, we never really take the time to create a connection with our subordinates and bosses. Such an attitude misses the point of engaging people to inspire them and bring out their best.
Steered conversations take everyday business issues that we consider boring and mundane and make them fun and exciting, presenting them as inspiring so employees see them as something they are proud to be part of – and not only that, but to also show they can actually do them and do them very well.
When we get people to act out of their own accord, their actions are so free, so easy, and so natural that it almost seems as if they are not working at all. The efforts that flow from them do so without sapping their energies, and this allows them to output more with less.
Instead of promoting idleness, conversations promote the highest activity by engaging people to find their aspirations in the organisation’s existence. This dependence is indispensably necessary to energise the individual into becoming an intrapreneur, helping thereby to attain the purpose of its creation.
Life communicates, but it is conversations that have allowed humans to dominate life. It is our greatest gift, outside of salvation. We should never forget that God had to be conversing with us to save us. Christ did not talk down to people. He encouraged them to share their innermost fears, so He could allay those fears with conversations about love. Such is the importance of conversations. They ennoble us to define what the world needs, rather than what it wants.
But we need to understand that the line between talking and conversing has never been blurrier. Which is why how we converse with each other always leaves a lasting impression. We are therefore obliged to ensure we converse properly, at least, if not strategically. And so, as we strive to push the economic-profit agenda in our workplaces, let us use conversations to galvanise the creativity and commitment that allows for those profits to be possible.
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