Dynamic Dialogs: The Second Most Important Element of a Great Company
By Jim Cardwell, CEO, Cardwell and Karla Norwood, President, Connections Online
A primary part of a leader's job is to educate stakeholders, subordinates, and peers about the current and future state of his or her business. This education is vital, enabling informed employees to know the business well enough to make the best choices in their areas of responsibility for the organization's success. As a result, the success of any company is based on the sum total of all decisions made – whether by the CEO or the janitor.
In the best selling books, Execution, by Larry Bossidy, and Good to Great, by Jim Collins, both authors say a successful company has to have three things:
- Organizational discipline
- Dynamic dialogs and
- The right people
Numbers 1 and 3 are obvious, but what exactly is a "dynamic dialog?" The word "dynamic" brings to mind words such as lively, active, energetic, vigorous, etc. That said, how would you describe the tone of your last meeting? The next word "dialog" means conversation, chat, discussion, discourse, talk, etc. So how would you describe the dynamic dialog of your last meeting? How many people actually said something? What was the quality of their contribution? To help you make educated decisions to meet your business goals, this article provides some helpful tips on how to benefit from the second most important element of a successful company – Dynamic Dialogs.
Challenge with our brain
I am sure you have heard examples of how people see a situation and our brains "size up the circumstance" instantly – whether the facts are really "correct" or not. For example, it is said that in a job interview, the prospective employer makes up their mind about the applicant in the first 30 seconds of the interview and spends the rest of the hour "justifying" the initial assumptions. In a crime example, if you have six observers of the crime, the police will often get six very different explanations of the same event.
Subsequently, our brains work the same in our day-to-day business meetings. We make assumptions that are often made without accurate or with very little information. Those assumptions – which are most often not arrived at with the best of information – are amazingly used to make decisions for your business.
Challenge with our behavior
Many of us who have been around business for any length of time learn early on that to make your point, you have to be an "advocate" of your point of view. The better you can debate or push your idea to the rest of the team to say "yes," the more successful you are.
And questioning the "advocate" will often lead to very uncomfortable looks around the table. Right?
The challenge with this scenario is – just like how our brains automatically make assumptions without looking at all the facts – that relying on an "advocate" to present an idea still does not give the organization adequate information to make the best decisions.
"Resetting" the steps of your thought process will aid you and your managers in making accurate decisions:
- Available data: Data exists in limitless quantities – more than the mind can hold. That is why it is necessary to select some data from that sea of information.
- Data is observable (you can see it – everyone can agree the data exists independent of our interpretations)
- Data is often unintelligible unless we interpret it
- Select data: Select data that you deem significant or important.
- Add meaning and interpret data: Interpret what you see, hear, read, and so forth. Remember, our own cultural and personal perspectives powerfully shape how we interpret data.
- Draw Conclusion: Our conclusions may seem clear to us, but not to others because we did not walk them through how we selected the data, interpreted the data – and from the data, drew conclusions.
Use a process of Advocacy and Inquiry
The value of "dialogs" is a process where there is a blend of advocacy as well as people asking questions about how the advocate came to their conclusions. In many Boardrooms, this may be considered "rude." In great companies, however, the balance of advocacy and inquiry (questions) significantly improves the learning of the organization. When we can understand – and teach – the process of our decision-making methodology, we will have a more innovative and creative organization.
Good inquiry/Questioning skills
As a leader or employee, you want to use your best thinking. Therefore, it is important for you and your employees to master best questioning techniques. Good questions are the building blocks for the highest levels of critical thinking. One might think that the "art of questioning" is learned from the cradle. Research has shown us that this is not true. Research does show that the quality of our thinking is revealed in the quality of our questions.
For example, Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains , published in 1956, is still considered a core building block for learning. Bloom's model for the Cognitive Domain (intellectual capability, i.e. knowledge or "think") is expressed as a hierarchy of skill categories representing specific intellectual capability. To develop each of these intellectual capabilities, there are specific questions that the leader and participant can use.
Starting with the lowest level, the six cognitive levels of Bloom's Taxonomy are:
1. Knowledge (exhibits previously learned material by recalling facts, terms, basic concepts, and answers)
2. Comprehension (demonstrating understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating main ideas)
3. Application (solving problems by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques, and rules in a different way)
4. Analysis (examining and breaking information into parts by identifying motives or causes; making inferences and finding evidence to support generalizations)
5. Synthesis (compiling information together in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern or proposing alternative solutions)
6. Evaluation (presenting and defending opinions by making judgments about information, validity of ideas, or quality of work based on a set of criteria)
Use these levels in your meetings, to create the types of questions that can be asked for each level. You can only get to "innovation" in your organization when you or your employees are asking questions at level 5 or 6. If you were to attend meetings at most companies today, would questions generally come from categories 1 and 2?
If you're interested in assessing the level of questions in your meetings, click on this diagnostic that you can use in each meeting to see where the level of questions reside. You'll begin to have more effective meetings if you are conducting dialogs around levels 4, 5, and 6. As a result, your company will be more productive and efficient — and have effective leadership that is truly knowledgeable about how the organization is in achieving its goals.
Preparing for and benefiting from Dynamic Dialogs
During your dialogs, reset your thought process to articulate why you picked certain data, how you interpret that data and how you draw conclusions from that data. This will significantly improve the odds of have a more balanced dialog and dynamic. Ask better questions and get better answers so you can make quicker and better decisions about focusing your resources. As a result, your staff will be better educated about the state of your business, which, in turn, will enable them to make better decisions for its continued success – whether it's enhanced growth, service, or efficiencies. The value of your organization will increase.
For more information on Dynamic Dialogs and more, please contact Jim Cardwell or Karla Norwood at Cardwell, 800-395-1410 . Connections Online website: www.connectionsonline.net.
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