Changing Behavior by Working On Underlying Mental Models
Seeing What Others Cannot See
Pit-Stops are no ordinary meetings or workshops. They are much more powerful because the conversations that take place in a PitStop are different. They are high impact strategic conversations and according to new research a new source of competitive advantage.
Sustaining a high rate of progress in respect of key growth projects and initiatives isn’t easy. But the way they are managed and in particular the nature of the conversations and meetings involved does not help.
Management and team meetings or workshops tend to be quite predictable. The same people do most of the talking, many of the same points are made, people regularly check their smartphones and eventually everybody hurries off to another meeting with a list of actions (many of which won’t get done). The result is another ‘ok’ meeting or workshop. But when it comes to key projects and growth related initiatives is that enough?
Shouldn’t people leave meetings and workshops with new insights and renewed energy? Shouldn’t they be fully engaged when they are there? These are the standards that we set for each and every PitStop.
The Growth PitStop™ employs the latest research on team dynamics and effective dialogue to create high impact strategic conversations that accelerate both teams and project potential.
Pit-Stops create a new dialogue around performance – one that generates new ideas, challenges old ways of thinking and leaves people feeling more motivated and empowered.
It is this type of dialogue which will increase the likelihood of success. Moreover, as we will examine in this article, the ability to have such ‘high impact strategic conversations’ is increasingly being linked to team and business success.
There is a new and surprising way to predict the success of your growth project, or initiatives. It starts by asking about the nature of the dialogue within your business or team.
These conversations don’t happen often enough and when they do, typically fall short of the type of discussion that is required. They often end up de-motivating rather rather than inspiring all of those involved.
They say ‘talk is cheap’ but high-impact or strategic conversations are as priceless as they are rare within organizations.
High impact conversations are not the norm – far from it. But as managers it is not our fault – we were never trained to have them – perhaps we didn’t even know that they mattered.
As Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon point out in their book (Moments of Impact (2014)) Harvard or other institutions don’t teach managers how to have strategic conversations. That is high impact conversations that shape the performance and strategy of the business and its people.
The quality of the conversations within organizations matters – it matters a lot. Indeed, what if the quality of conversations was a key factor in separating two otherwise competitively similar businesses?
More and more books are being written & research undertaken to suggest that the ability to have hi-impact strategic conversations is a real competitive advantage and is linked to results (1). That makes strategic conversations one of the hottest topics in management today.
Listen to the dialogue in your organization or team. It is a real measure of team and organizational health (what used to be called ‘culture’) and much more besides.
When it comes to accelerating the performance of a business or a team listening to the health of the conversation is the equivalent of checking the dials on the dashboard of a car. If the dials are not in the right place, then don’t expect much speed around your projects and initiatives.
So, if you want to gauge the performance potential within your business or team listen carefully.
Listen to what is said and what is left unsaid. In many organizations and teams there are ‘don’t go there’ topics. As a result talking about performance & potential is a challenge.
When it comes to growth initiatives it is what is left unsaid, rather than what is said, that can cause the greatest problems. However open dialogue can only take place in an environment of trust and respect. That cannot be taken for granted.
An effective dialogue cannot existing in an environment of politics, fear, or suspicion. People have to be able to say what they are thinking without fear of offending someone, or being told they are wrong. They have to be able to ask questions or suggest ideas without having to worry about looking foolish.
Where the conditions don’t exist for good conversations managers live in a dangerous bubble – they only hear what people think they want to hear. In the absence of a safe environment people are likely to be guarded in what they say, confusion and politics will abound, departments or teams won’t work well together, information will be siloed and new ideas won’t flow.
Furthermore such organizations are likely to be caught off guard by the surprise moves of a competitor, the emergence of a new technology, changing customer tastes and key staff tunrover. That is because those who foresee what was going to happen will chose to stay quiet.
All these things have their roots in the quality of the internal conversation, or to be more specific the environmental conditions that shape the nature or quality of that conversation.
Listen to the conversation within your organization. For example is the conversation future-focused and positive?
The conversational narrative reveals what is really going on within an organization or team. That includes potential barriers to success such as; ignorance, defensiveness, fear, anxiety and politics.
If people are metaphorically pointing the finger (i.e. blaming or criticizing others), getting defensive or talking in terms of ‘them’ and ‘us’ that reveals a lot about the organizational culture or health. It raises a red flag for the prospects of your growth initiatives success.
Every organization has its own internal narrative and it is important in understanding behaviour. So what is the narrative within your organization around growth and performance related projects/initiatives.
– Is the narrative coherent accurate and fair?
– Is it helpful/supportive of what needs to be achieved?
– Is the narrative positive and future focused?
– Does the narrative need to be changed?
The PitStop will enable your team to engage with its own narrative in a new way and future focused manner. Changing the narrative is important if behaviour is to change and engaging people in a new more open dialogue is key to boosting your project’s chances of success.
It is an intriguing notion – dialogue means performance. In other words if you improve the quality of the dialogue within your team you will boost its performance & indeed potential.
The leader is responsible for the internal dialogue of the organization. He or she sets the tone for that dialogue and shapes it in order to boost the chances of success.
So, as a leader chose your words carefully. More important still do more listening than talking and be prepared to bite your tongue. Creating a new strategic dialogue is going to require new patience and humility on your part.
The will help your team push interaction, teamwork and dialogue to a new level.
The Pit-Stop models a new mode of conversation and teamwork – one that results in new engagement, creativity and ownership. In the process it leverages cognitive re-framing, mental models, systems thinking and action learning.
Notes & References:
1. Research points to the ability to have good strategic conversations as an indicator of the future success of your business: JC Spender and Bruce A Strong (Strategic Conversations), Richard P. Rumelt (Good Strategy/Bad Strategy), Chris Ertel & Kisa Kay Solomon (Moments of Impact) and Cynthia A Montgomery (The Strategist). The role of quality customer conversations is examined in Ray Collis & John O’ Gorman (The B2B Revolution).