Do you feel like your team is constantly stuck in a rut, unable to execute on what they promised or innovate to achieve new goals? Are you frustrated by the lack of progress despite having repeated conversations?
If so, you're not alone. These are common challenges faced by many leaders, but the good news is that there's a way to overcome them. By building trust and improving communication within your team, you can drive innovation and achieve high-level execution.
In this blog post, we'll explore how having effective conversations and leveraging the Cycle of Leadership - a framework of three critical communication skills - can help you transform your team's dynamics and achieve success. There are 3 types of communication skills that are critical to taking effective action – what we call the Cycle of Leadership:
- Conversations for Possibilities: Effective conversations require an environment where the best ideas are brought forward and considered. Working in this area is key to considering new possibilities and new ways of doing things.
- Declarations: With the best ideas on the table, leaders are in a position to make a declaration – defining a new future state. With clear declarations, organizations can move forward with purpose and pace.
- Conversations for Results: With a clear direction in place, people are now in a position to execute. The clearer and more precise these exchanges are, the more accurate and effective will be the downstream execution.
Figure 1. The Cycle of Leadership includes intentional conversations for possibilities, declarations, and execution. In High-Performing cultures, this cycle lives everywhere in the organization.
Conversations for Possibilities enable leaders to develop a rich sense of what is possible and how their people view the current and future states of the organization. Conversations for Possibilities establish a context in which the principle of “no bad ideas” and emphasizing creativity over logic prevail. The purpose of these conversations is to explore ideas and to stretch or even break down the boundaries of the usual belief systems in the organization.
Conversations for Possibilities are where innovation happens and they are an essential capability for leaders. It is here that leaders discover new possibilities and refine their own thinking and vision. Effective leaders routinely engage a wide variety of people within and beyond their organization in Conversations for Possibilities.
From these conversations, leaders make decisions and declare a new future objective or mission. Because many people have been engaged in the process, buy-in is high. And because people know their leader listens to them and expects honesty, they will challenge when the declaration is not sufficiently clear, or they perceive flaws or blind spots in it.
Having engaged their people in Conversations for Possibilities and spoken a declaration, the leader must make clear requests to others to take responsibility and accountability for fulfilling particular roles in realizing the declaration. The leader must expect – and get – rich dialog with their people in these Conversations for Results before receiving their promises to fulfill.
Conversations for Possibilities are the engine of innovation; it is in these conversations that creative thought gives rise to possibilities that might otherwise never be discovered or considered.
When declarations are made, visions for the future are established, around which the community can rally and find a common cause.
Conversations for Results are the engine of execution; it is here that the actions necessary to fulfill the mission are defined, roles are clarified, and individuals commit to fill the roles and ensure the mission is met.
These communication capabilities, therefore, establish practices of innovation, visioning, and execution throughout the organization. Innovation, visioning, and execution, taken together, form the Cycle of Leadership that is the hallmark of a High-Performance Leadership Culture. In a Leadership Culture, innovation, vision, and execution arise everywhere, continuously.
Because the Cycle of Leadership is a cycle, it has no true beginning or end. However, it is often useful to think of it as being initiated by Conversations for Possibilities.
The Cycle of Leadership highlights a critical element of Leadership Cultures that is often overlooked in leadership development:
the degree to which leaders can be effective is directly proportional to the degree to which those they lead – and others – will be completely honest with them.
If a leader creates a culture in which others will not openly share their ideas in Conversations for Possibilities, will not challenge them for clarity and purpose in their declarations, and will not negotiate for clear requests before making promises to perform, then the leader will not be effective. Their declarations will be ill-informed, people will not be energized to get on board to fulfill the declarations, and the execution of the organization will be mediocre. On the other hand, leaders who create a culture in which fully honest conversations are the norm will have a highly engaged following that will be passionate about collectively realizing the declarations spoken by their leader.
We consider anyone who engages in the activities of the Cycle of Leadership to be a leader, whether they hold a leadership position on the org chart or not. In this sense, you can see that everyone leads in certain places in their lives and that everyone in an organization contributes in a variety of ways to the leadership of the organization.