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Is everybody ‘perfectly aligned’? Well, think again!
Want to move your team’s numbers? Here’s how:
Is everybody ‘perfectly aligned’? Well, think again!
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Looking for a Breakthrough? It’s time for the CNBH (Conversation NOT Being Had)!

If you are disappointed or frustrated by progress or collaboration, ask yourself: ‘What Conversation is NOT Being Had?' Then start planning to have that conversation – the result could be the breakthrough you have been waiting for.

Conversation is NOT Being Had

It is natural – every organization has them. Many teams and projects have them too. They are: Conversations not being had (CNBH).

Especially present in the most ambitious and innovative projects or teams, CNBH is a key barrier to boosting teamwork and cross-functional collaboration.

Conversations not being had (CNBH) make it difficult to talk about where projects and teams are stuck. As a result, they can put the brakes on ambitious programs and initiatives.

Turning Conversations not being had (CNBH) into an effective dialog is generally a prelude to a breakthrough within projects and teams. So, it is a great opportunity, especially for projects or teams that are struggling or stuck.

You have probably heard the saying: “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the battle was lost’. Well, something similar applies in respect of those conversations that are not being had (CNBH). For want of a (difficult) conversation, effective cross-functional collaboration, change and innovation could be lost (or at least hindered).

Why are Conversations Not Being Had (CNBH)?

Here are some of the reasons why some important conversations are not being had:
• They are not easy.
• They are not safe. It is political and contentious.
• Conflict may result.
• It could damage relationships.
• There is a lack of alignment – a gap that is difficult to bridge.
• Personalities and egos are involved.
• It is easy to put off. Especially when people are very busy.
• There never seems to be the right time to bring it up.
• It could derail things – set back initiatives and making it harder to get stuff done.
• There is no easy or palatable answer.

Talking about conversations not being had (CNBH) is to give something that is universal but hidden a name. While leaders have talked about Strategic Conversations for some time1. It is time to call attention to the trickiest of all strategic conversations – those that need to happen, but are not.

Relax, It’s Natural

CNBHs are as much a part of organizational life, as workshops and teams, albeit more hidden. So, they are natural and nothing to be shamed of. There are few leaders and teams that don’t have CNBHs and to keep it that way they must work at open conversations continuously. They are ‘comfortable being uncomfortable' – people must be ‘able to call it' – they can disagree and still get along.

Most people are aware that there are CNBHs in respect of their projects and teams. But those who deny them that are in danger. Either they mistake silence for agreement (which is bad), or only want to hear good news (which is worse). Some may even assume that people will naturally say what they are thinking (despite a decade of talking about psychological safety).

To put off difficult conversations is natural human behavior, especially within organizations. People and teams are ‘thrown together’ to work on teams and projects – they have to get along – to collaborate to get on. Moreover, they must ‘toe the line’ and ‘play the game’ in terms of the culture and politics of the organization. So, it is natural that they would shy away from anything – such as a difficult conversation – that might interfere with all of that.

Although the transformation initiative was in its 6th month, there were many conversations that were still not being had. One of them was how to reconcile divergent needs of the commercial and the operations teams. How to get them to agree on a shared set of process and systems when they seemed to be at logger-heads?

There is another reason for CNBHs: Too many organizations only do good news when it comes to strategies and plans. But, leaders must be able to have conversations that are not always polite. To prevent conversations not being had requires embracing uncertainty and doubt. People have to be able to call it, and they must be able to disagree and still get along.

‘CNBH is a bit of a misnomer – the conversations are probably being had, but only in the back channels, rather than out in the open. The result is a lot of noise and back chatter’.

Finally Having the Conversation

CNBH are a key reason for using a coach or facilitator for important strategic conversations with your team or initiative. It is hard for the leader to participate in the conversation, as well as to be a facilitator and an honest broker too. After all, they have ‘skin in the game’. Hence, the value of a facilitator to keep the conversation on track and ensure it remains a positive experience (even if it is difficult).

Generally, when the conversation does happen, there is relief. It is like a weight is taken off people’s shoulders. The anxiety that people had about how the conversation would end up (e.g. conflict) I’d often proved to have been unfounded. Typically, people will say ‘we should have had this conversation a long time ago.’

Pause for a moment to reflect:

What conversations are not being had within your organization, project or team?

Our analytics measures ​the risk of conversations not being had. Our coaches facilitate ​the conversations that otherwise don't happen.

If you want to bring important issues out into the open, in a safe and effective manner, talk to us.

We are all familiar with the phrase elephant in the room. Well, the reason for so many elephants is that there are Conversations Not Being Had (CNBH).

SOLUTIONS & SERVICES: Here are some of the ways that our research & insights are put to work by our clients:

  1. Strategic conversations – conversations that while important (and linked to success), don't tend to happen in the day to day busyness []

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