Powerful Conversation(s)

I recently asked a group of senior technical people, scientists and engineers, the question: “What is the most powerful conversation you have participated in at work in the last three months?”

Their responses ranged from: 1)a very negative experience where the project team was told by management that they had been working on a project that had been dropped from the priority list months ago to; (2)a conversation that was emotionally-charged and therefore powerful to; (3)knowing that my input was making a difference to; (4)asking individual technical professionals what kind of work they really wanted to be engaged in.

A powerful conversation in my judgment is one that surfaces and even challenges underlying assumptions.

A powerful conversation makes it possible to discuss “undiscussables”.

A powerful conversation shifts the frame of what is being discussed. A new way of looking at the challenges or opportunities at hand unfolds.

Powerful conversations require a relationship, not just a connection, where it is “safe” to go beneath the surface of the usual management reporting protocols.

As one technical lead stated: “I can’t remember when I was last in a conversation that wasn’t all roadblocks.”

What do you think makes for a “powerful conversation”? When was the last time you participated in one? What could you do to facilitate such a conversation?