Strategic conversation is honest and open discussions in the strategic priorities of an organization which results in actions. The process of strategic management enables the organization to implement appropriate strategic actions and decisions. Strategic conversation help in determining the future direction to be taken by the organization. Few people have mastered the art of establishing effective strategic conversations yet it has a huge impact on the performance of the organization. Few team leaders and professionals are well versed with this discipline.
Critical elements of strategic conversations are: asking questions, dialogue, active listening, and establishing open communication. Strategic communication should not be confused with an organized meeting. Majority of leaders know how to organize a meeting; but very few can establish effective strategic communication. The application of strategic conversations is wide ranging although the key principles remain the same. The art of establishing strategic conversations requires different tactics to be used to handle different circumstances.
The critical elements provide a provision for establishing meaningful and result-oriented conversations. These elements are designed to be applied anytime and anywhere. By internalizing these concepts, a leader is assured of a process that moves his/her interactions to new heights of understanding. Once the person practicing strategic conversation becomes conversant with the entire process, there is the emergence of more creative applications.
The first element is dialogue; for a conversation to be termed strategic, the stage must be set with clear agreement and understanding. Dialogue is a critical step because it clarifies the goals and promotes an atmosphere from which mutual trust is built. The second element is active listening. Individuals engaged in a conversation must be actively involved during the entire period of interaction. This means demonstrating interest and paying full attention to the person speaking. One should fully engage their attention when conversing strategically.
Examples of active listening include establishing eye contact, uninterrupted attention, and welcoming body language. Demonstrating active listening is quite simple, however it is not simple to consistently be an active listener. There are a lot of distractions in the public setting and also the increased tendency for the mind to drift away when someone is talking. In this digital age, electronic gadgets such as mobile phones can easily distract one who is actively engaged in a conversation.When these gadgets vibrate or ring during a meeting, it breaks the flow of conversation.
The third element is asking questions for clarification. Normally, interpersonal communication is often a misinterpretation. All parties engaged in a conversation think that they are expressing themselves in the clearest way, and their listeners believe that they are understanding the message as it is intended. However, the truth of the matter is that the received message is partially correct. Both the speaker and the listener must be clear for a strategic conversation to happen (Heijden, 2005).
How a conversation ends is equally as important as how it begins. A conversation that ends abruptly usually leaves the participants uncomfortable or feeling awkward. The last memory the participants are left with is the uncomfortable feeling. The act of appreciating the other party is a way to close a conversation and indicating the value of their interaction. Extending oneself opens the possibility of future interaction with the other party; it establishes a connection, or simply a closer relationship. This leads to more accurate and clearer strategic conversations.
Communication is the flow of information between two or more individuals. There are two main types of communication: verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communication involves speaking whereas nonverbal communication entails communicating without uttering a word, for example, through body language. Communication can further be divided into closed and open communication. In open communication, all participating parties are free to express themselves whereas in a closed communication only one individual is actively communicating.
Open conversation gives each party equal participation in strategic conversation. Open communication creates a conducive environment allows for creativity and flow of energy. It is very important in strategic conversation because it establishes the appropriate environment where participating parties have a proper understanding of the objectives and what is required in order to realize the objectives. The following are methods to establish open communication: establishing a grievance system, ensuring that the message is positive and taking note of diversity.
Storytelling is an effective way for parties to engage with one another because stories make people experience information rather than only consume it. Storytelling has been used for many generations to pass cultural practices from one generation to the next. Storytelling also connects individuals from different cultures hence forming a cohesive bond in the society. Compelling stories take the listening party on a journey. It starts at one point and ends in a different point.
A story has to include the following elements in order for it to be compelling: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. In the stage of exposition the listener is introduced to the characters, background information and the setting. The exposition is usually introduced at the beginning of the story. In the second step of inciting incident, the storyteller describes the trigger that brings the story being told into action.
Abraham, S. (2003). Experiencing strategic conversations about the central forces of our time. Strategy & Leadership, 31(2), 61-63.
Collier, N., Fishwick, F., && Floyd, S. (2004). Managerial involvement and perceptions of strategy process. Long Range Planning, 37(1), 67-83.
Heijden, K. V. (January 2005). Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation (2nd ed.). University of Oxford: Wiley.
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