Think for a moment about the number of people you’ve interacted with over the past month, both those senior and those you perhaps have a responsibility for. How many would you say that it was a positive experience for them? And how many of the people who’ve interacted with you have had a positive effect on you? There aren’t trick questions, as outcome of these interactions really does make a difference to how it feels to come to work each day.
One of the biggest players in the construction and support services industry bought one of the other biggest players in the construction and support services industry. Know who? We know the CEO of one of these businesses led the business from bankruptcy in 2011 to one of the most respected turnarounds in UK corporate history.
The deal was secured in June 2015. The CEO began the journey in 2011 by specifically focusing on building great relationships through quality conversations with all key stakeholders, both within (people), and outside (customers, regulatory bodies, investors, community interest groups) the business. It worked: the business went onto win one of the largest ($1.09 billion) roadway maintenance contracts in Europe in 2014.
So what’s the most precious commodity that no one has that much of? Yes, time. Everyone’s diaries are manic these days. The great thing about quality conversations is that they don’t require more time to be invested. If anything they can take less time. There are key ‘set-play’ moments in the diary, like team briefings, one-to-ones, and meetings that often play out a certain way because they’ve played out that way for ages. The trick is to use these current interaction/conversation opportunities a little differently by thinking about the impact we’ re making on others, and the impact others are having on us. Both can be changed and improved.
I started working with Wayne Clarke seven years ago when I first experienced the Best Companies Times Top 100 Methodology for Staff Engagement, something that is fully embedded within JT as a stretching benchmark when aspiring to be a truly great place to work. What immediately struck me was Wayne’ s absolute passion for personal, team and organisational improvement through leadership and relationships.
He has worked at the very highest global levels with corporate, government and not-for-profit boards, and boils down the ultimate driver of success, mediocrity or failure to the quality of conversations that occur between people that lead to key decisions being made. Wayne brings, as he puts it, the ‘ power of great dialogue’ to life as follows: ‘ Great relationships, unless you use telepathy (and there aren’t many people who are very skilled at this), are usually the outcome of great interactions, mostly conversations. Sounds simple. What we talk about, and how we talk about it, has the power to create deep, enduring relationships, as does our ability to be self-aware about the impact we’re having on others.
Through the quality of their conversations and interactions, individuals in an organisation have a strong effect on their colleagues, customers and the general public’ s perception of the organisation and what it stands for, and its performance.
Each interaction and each conversation may seem irrelevant at the time, but in the grand scheme of things we know it’s the small, quick interactions that can often have the biggest effect on organisations. Why? Because they make people “feel” something. ‘The thing is, some people are really self-aware about how they make others feel; some haven’t a clue about how they come across; and some (luckily a minority) don’t care at all! Quality conversation isn’t about a deep transcendental exchange on the nature of our existence. It could be if you’re that way inclined, but it’s more about the regular, quick interactions and short meetings that make up much of our interactions on a day-to-day basis within our teams and our departments, both with our colleagues and our customers.
Each interaction has an effect on us, both good and bad. The totality of these interactions during the course of an average week has a real effect on how we feel, how we perform and how we in turn treat others. The real test is being able to be the cause of quality conversation, even when what you want to give to those around you isn’t what you get from them.
By Richard Summerfield, author of ‘‘Loving Leadership: 8 Powerful Techniques that so many leaders miss’