Unlocking Leadership Potential: The Art of Effective Conversations

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Have you ever wondered how some leaders effortlessly inspire and align their teams, while others struggle despite their best efforts? Every day, we have countless conversations. Some are brief, others are more extended. Many involve simple exchanges of information, while others require providing direction, seeking feedback, or debating ideas.

Our effectiveness as leaders often hinges on the value we extract from these conversations. When done well, conversations can inspire, direct, inform, and align. When done poorly, misunderstandings arise, leading to rework and frustration.

In my experience, conversations follow a predictable path. This path is consistent whether the exchange lasts 60 seconds or much longer. Initially, after introductions, the focus is on sharing facts, data, and what Frederick Herzberg, in his Two-Factor Theory, calls “hygiene factors.” Parties exchange what they know and think, and there is value in this exchange.

However, once these factual aspects have been covered, the perceived value of the conversation tends to diminish, signaling its potential conclusion. Yet, considering that we speak at around 125 words per minute while thinking at approximately 900 words per minute, much remains unspoken. Specifically, what often remains unsaid are our emotions, beliefs, and values—Herzberg’s “motivators.”

How often do we leave important things unsaid in our daily conversations? It is within these motivators that the most significant value of the conversation lies. Don’t let the conversation die now. Try asking questions like, “I’m curious, what else are you thinking about right now?” or “What else would you like to say?” or “Tell me more” or “How long have you been thinking about that?” These prompts, inspired by leadership coach Michael Bungay Stanier, can reveal surprising insights.

You will be amazed. What really matters often emerges right at the end of the conversation, but only if you allow it to. The lesson here is clear: “An extra 30 seconds can make the whole conversation worthwhile.”

So, the next time you’re in a conversation, remember that taking an extra 30 seconds to dig deeper can unlock the true value of the exchange. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure every conversation counts.


Ready for great conversations?  Just call. 

Kevin Wallace
Stoke Consulting

Kevin guides business leaders through their toughest challenges to achieve their goals.  With a deep understanding of organisational issues and a broad business knowledge base, Kevin is a valuable external asset to any team. His talent for deep listening helps him uncover root causes and develop tailored solutions. Kevin thrives on complexity and brings proven concepts, applied experience, and personalisation to every project.